Hiking Stats as of 11/12/2019
Total Trips:
Total Distance:
Total Elevation Gain:
 3,891.68 miles
 1,060,050 feet

Jul 14, 2013 - Nonsummit - Highland Peak


Partners: (None)

Distance: 10.17 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,476 feet

Trip Time: 4:44

Trip Report  |  Trip Photos  |  GPX: (1)
Noble Lake
Maps and Stats:
I had taken a couple of weekends off after the Mt. Whitney hike but was anxious to get back into the swing of things. I have had a long-term goal of completing enough summits to earn "emblem status" on the climbing lists I have been working on. Those lists are the Sierra Peaks Section (SPS), Western States Climbers (WSC) and OGUL (Tahoe Region). To get emblem status one must summit a varying amount of peaks, with a certain number of them being listed as emblem peaks which are reserved for the more challenging peaks. I am nowhere near having enough to get an SPS emblem, but I am closing in on the WSC and OGUL emblems. To earn the WSC emblem one must either 1) ascend 15 WSC emblem peaks; 2) ascent 10 WSC emblem peaks and 10 other WSC peaks; or 3) ascent any 25 WSC peaks. To date I have ascended 5 WSC emblem peaks and an additional 7 other WSC peaks meaning I only need 5 more emblem peaks and 3 other WSC peaks to earn the emblem. The OGUL emblem requirements are slightly different (fewer are required as there are fewer peaks to choose from). I have summited 3 OGUL emblem peaks and 3 other OGUL peaks. To earn the emblem I must summit 2 more OGUL emblem peaks and another 7 regular OGUL peaks. Highland Peak, a nearly 11,000 foot mountain off of Highway 4, earns its place on both the WSC and OGUL emblem peak lists. It is also listed on the SPS list, although not as an emblem peak. That would be the day's goal. A side goal was to also traverse over to Silver Peak after summiting Highland, thus getting another WSC and OGUL peak (although Silver is not an emblem peak).

I left the house around 7:40 and made the drive up Highway 4 to Ebbetts Pass, the highpoint of Highway 4 as it crosses the Sierra and intersects the Pacific Crest Trail. The day was a bit warm and I wore long sleeves and pants in an attempt to shield myself from both the sun and any summertime mosquitos that might be looking for a feast. The early portions of the PCT on the way to Noble Canyon are quite nice, with greenery abound amidst several rocky outcroppings. Before long I had my first views of Highland Peak, which was on the other side of Noble Canyon. The route to Highland is circular, as it heads far south of the peak in order to avoid the elevation gains and losses that would occur if one were to head directly for the peak. Also visible across the Canyon was Silver Peak, which was the second objective on the day and just a little further down the ridgeline after Highland Peak. As Highland came more into view, the rocky nature of the peak became more evident. A good portion of the hike was to be off trail, and clearly route finding would be critical given the multitude of cliffs that were visible all over the mountain.

Although the climb of Highland itself looks tough, getting to the other side of the canyon is not much more difficult that hiking along rolling hillsides. I enjoyed this easy portion of the trip before finally crossing the canyon and heading uphill where the real fun would begin. The hike from the canyon crossing to Noble Lake, where the off-trail hiking would begin, was a bit more challenging, although it rewarded me for the effort with a dazzling display of wildflowers as I made my way into the Noble Lake area. From here I headed cross country and into some of the more miserable hiking I have ever done. I had been somewhat worried about mosquitos, but it was the flys that were out in full force. Over the next hour I had 2 flys head into my mouth and was relentlessly harassed as I tried to keep moving. I tried to focus on the hike, but no matter what I did they would not leave me alone. I put on additional mosquito repellant, hoping that would help but it didn't seem to do anything, as they kept bothering me and photo bombing my shots. Unfortunately this distracted me enough to cause me to carelessly slip on some easy rocks which would prove to be more of a problem than I first realized. After I made my way about a quarter mile further, I realized that my camera was missing and that it must have fallen out of my pocket when I fell. I spent the next half hour repeatedly walking back and forth along where I thought I had fallen. Making things more difficult was that there was no trail - since I was off trail there was no good way to find where I had previously walked. Eventually, however, I located the camera and started back up.

I continued on up through the flies, enjoying some nice views while trying to navigate a quite steep and tricky section of the hillside. By now, however, my knee was starting to hurt and when I looked at it I was a little disturbed by how quickly it was starting to bruise and the coloring on the skin. I made a quick decision to save Highland Peak for another day - the combination of the flies, the lost time searching for my camera, and now my knee zapped all my energy and I wasn't having any fun anymore. So down I went, through the rocky drainage and back towards Ebbetts Pass. As I approached the pass I was impressed with this previously unnoticed view of Ebbetts Peak on the other side of the highway, with what looked like a swarm of flys on top. Thankfully it turned out to only be the American Flag. I got back to Ebbetts Pass around 3:00 and set in for the long drive home. I can count on one hand the number of times I have failed to summit a peak, and it bothers me now as I write this that I had to turn back. Highland Peak will be my next hike and I won't be satisfied until I bag it!

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