Bear Valley 1999

Alpine Lake from Inspiration Point.
The music tent. Our home for two weeks every summer. It really has very good acoustics- so do the rocks outside. The weather got very nasty for a few days and we had to reschedule rehearsals and bring in heaters so that we could continue the festival
Me and the trusty steed...
One of the little perks of the festival is staying in rustic cabins donated to the festival by local patrons of the arts- the real heroes of the festival.

Despite much bad weather, the elite hikers of the festival put together an assault team to bag the three highest peaks in the area in one day.

Each year we have one complete day off and it is traditional for some people to undertake an all day hike of some sort to a major destination. We decide to try and reach the highest and most remote peaks in the area:

10824 (great name!)

Highland Peak the tallest at 10935 feet)

Silver (the farthest and most frustrating in previous attempts)

The trip starts as a pleasant walk in the beautiful Noble Canyon.

Our first destination comes into view early on.

Last year, a group tried a different route, wore themselves out bushwacking and ended up in the dark trying to find their way back. We had to start the barbecue without them.

Having crossed the canyon, we look back on the trip so far.
The last 2000 feet of ascent take place in a mile and a half. This isn't even the summit we are looking at here. There is a trail of sorts, but the loose rock and sandy ground make for slow going near the top. I hate this kind of footing but I slog on to the top.

Known as a "Mule" by some of the quicker hikers, I make it to the top last but in good shape. Give me a half hour and I will be ready to go on!

The view from the top of 10824 is definitely worth the effort. We look west back toward Bear Valley. In the bottom right corner area you can see Noble Lake where we stopped for a snack. We came in from the extreme right, out of the picture. Straight ahead is Highland Lakes which is a trailhead for trips to Hyram Peak to the left and many others. In the far center you can see Bull Run Peak which has a great view of the western end of the area and the Dardanelles. At this point the day had gone from sunny to overcast which worked out well for hiking.
Clouds gather as the team celebrates the first leg of the trip. It was only around 1 PM. We figured on having lunch and then pushing on to the other two peaks.

(Tom is taking the picture.)

Looking east we see the other two peaks, Highland and Silver, seemingly close by. But many more hours will be needed to get there and back along the ridge.
As storm clouds start to roll in, thoughts turn to the free beer and pizza being offered by a local merchant and festival supporter that evening.

It was amazing how fast the storm whipped up.

But this is life in the Sierras. And this year was especially bad.

Suddenly the rain started, turning briefly to hail as the temperature dropped. We were totally exposed so we beat a very hasty retreat back down the way we had come up. The rain was heavy enough to force me to put my camera away so I didn't get any shots of the six of us flying down the mountainside. Minutes later as we reached some cover at a lower level, the lightening started and we hiked out for two hours in a steady rain. That pizza really hit the spot. And thank God for hot tubs and Gortex.
So Highland and Silver, especially Silver, remain as the most unfriendly of our hiking destinations. Last year a group got lost in the dark and only 2 of six made it to the top of Silver.

I will be back. Maybe with an attempt from the other side, which has never been done by any of us.

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