Next morning I could smell smoke, and there were clouds moving in. Made for some crappy shooting conditions at the summit.
A gully from the eastern end of Silliman Lake leads up to the higher lake. The lower portion is steep; on the left there's a lot of talus, while the right is grassy. I took the right side, which I'm not sure was the best choice--tall grass, wet with dew, doesn't give the best footing. The gully is much easier higher up.
An obvious gully (with use trail) from the NW end of the higher lake bypasses the cliffs above the lake. From the point where the gully starts to peter out, I followed obvious ledges up and to the right (ENE) to the relatively gentle slopes below the summit. I dropped my pack at about the 11,000' level and headed for the summit.
There are two notches in the ridgeline SE of Mt. Silliman; I was told to take the one further SE (the other reportedly ends in cliffs). That one has three chutes; the first two appear to end in cliffs, while the southeasternmost is a steep chute with lots of loose gravel and scree. Not a fun descent. (At one point when I dislodged some gravel, I could still hear it falling 30 seconds later.)
The snowfield on the map no longer exists, or at least it doesn't exist this year.
The terrain leading down to Crescent Lake is more complicated than it looks on the map. Aim for the saddle south of the lower lake north of Crescent, and you should be okay.
Getting to the outlet requires some scrambling over inconveniently placed rocks.
It's an easy traverse over to the valley leading southeast. I stayed to the right ascending the first headwall, and wound up well above the small tarn; not a problem, as I was able to contour up the valley from there. The terrain in here is all shattered slabs, sometimes bordering on talus (but easy talus).
Near the head of this valley I started zigzagging left (east) up the slope to the higher valley (beginning at 10,600'). I aimed for the lone tree at the lip of the valley, and that worked pretty well.
From the higher valley, there are several obvious exit points on the right; all of them take you into the Horse Creek drainage, so avoid them. Instead, stay left as far as possible. Where the valley finally comes to an end, there's a grassy ramp you can take that leads you directly to the gentle crest area above (SW of) Box Canyon.
I followed the crest SE to the big saddle at the head of Horse Creek canyon, then ascended SE from there.
Around 11,000-11,200', stay close to the Box Canyon rim--there's a pretty good route here that goes all the way to the saddle above Tableland.
Dropping down to "Azure Lake" (which is apparently what the rangers call Lake 10559), I miscalculated; I should have swung wide either left or right, but wound up in the steep stuff just northwest of the lake. Found a gully that went, made it down okay anyway. Camped in the rocks near the southeast shore.
The outlet stream (dry at this point) goes through a cool little gorge just below the lake. The gorge drops off after a bit but there's an easy exit to the left.
It's a pretty straightforward drop on the left side of the "river" down to the valley below Table Meadow.
When you get to the valley you want to swing wide to the right to end up on nice slabs on the right side of the river. I did not, and wound up in some slightly complicated terrain on the other side--nothing too difficult, but the slabs on the other side looked like much better traveling.
I crossed and re-crossed the river a few times on my way down, depending on where the going looked easiest. The fact that it was no more than a trickle made this easy; in a wetter year in early season, you might have to commit.
Rather than go over the hump to Pear Lake, I aimed for the ranger station & trail (having read someone's trip report in which he did this). I may have started too high, because I wound up dropping down some steep slabs & gullies to the valley below the ranger station.
Then I wound up missing it in the trees, and didn't see it until I was well up the valley and looked back. I wound up cutting up the slope SW and intercepting the main Pear Lake trail at about 9500'.
sekihiker wrote:Wow, Tom. I'm inspired to follow in your footsteps. I've heard of the cross country routes in the area, but your description and photos makes is seem possible and interesting. Thanks.
I'm surprised you haven't done this already--I figured you had been everywhere!
Aside from the pass near Silliman (Little Lakes might yield an easier crossing, but that cuts out summiting Mt. Silliman), it was all good cross-country travel. The route from Crescent to the saddle above Tableland was particularly nice, and a pleasant surprise that it went so nicely. Well worth a visit.