| Klamath Mountains introduction
A quick glance & you wouldn't know these mountains tucked in the northwestern corner of California existed. Or if you did, their beauty remains concealed from the valleys below. One has to venture high to see them. These peaks aren't nearly as visited as other nearby popular peaks such as the 14er Mt. Shasta or Lassen Peak in the Cascades. But here in Trinity County, nothing exceeds more than 9000' in elevation, which is enough to barely scrape above timberline. My report says Gibson Peak, but I did two other mountains as well, Mt. Eddy & Siligo Peak. Gibson Peak was the harder of the three, though nothing more than Class 3 at most.
One unique aspect about the Klamaths is the particular geology & flora of the area. Geologically, the Klamath contain an abundance of two rather uncommon rocks, serpentine & peridotite. Granite peaks & marble also dominate the higher terrain in some areas. It's a wildflower paradise, particularly during this time where the landscape is golden w/ color. Most of the flowers I have no clue as to what they are, only unique to this part of the world. The Klamath's western end is of course where the famous redwoods are while much of the area contains massive ponderosa & incense cedars several centuries in age. It's no wonder a recent proposal was made to make this area of Northern California & Southern Oregon part of the "Ancient Forest National Park", though not much progress has been made.
My pictures focus on the high elevations of the Klamaths, particularly The Eddys (Mt. Eddy) & the Trinity Alps further south (Gibson & Siligo). The Eddys, which face the towns of Weed & Mt. Shasta along I-5, contain the high point of the range, Mt. Eddy at 9025'. It's comprised of black/green serpentine mixed w/ iron-rich peridotite, giving it's distinct red appearance. The Trinity Alps themselves (northwest of Weaverville) consist of three types, the Green Trinities, the Red Trinities & the White Trinities. The Green Trinities owe their color to the forest cover, the red due to peridotite, and the white due to granite. These contrasts are heavily noticeable on the landscape. My adventures were primarily in the Red Trinities, though the high peaks themselves had exposed granite.
In summary, Mt. Eddy can easily be accomplished in a day, being nine miles round trip. In climbing terms, it's a super easy Class I hike (2600' gain at least from where I parked at the lower trailhead). In fact, there were so many switchbacks near its gentle top that it started becoming ridiculous. As for the Trinity Alps, that's a place to camp in w/ some fun scrambling involved. There are several lakes and waterfalls in the area.
Mt. Shasta (14162' - Cascade Range) from elevation 2600' on I-5
The trip itself started off passing by Mt. Shasta (I was coming from the north) before veering off I-5 for Mt. Eddy, which was across the way from the west. For being so late in September, there were still some leftover patches of snow even at 8000'. It was a scenic drive once you got off the Interstate and started meandering high up to a pass where you met the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). From there, a good portion of the White Trinities were visible.
Trinity Alps from near Mt. Eddy on the pass on Parks Creek Road
One can access Mt. Eddy from the pass at the PCT or drive a little further to a lower trail head. I chose the lower trail head to reduce miles. The trail itself followed through some wet meadows before it climbed through a mixed forest along w/ sagebrush before meeting up with the PCT. In some of the meadows, I spotted groves of the cobra lily, a carnivorous plant unique to the Klamaths. Insects are lured by its scent, go up underneath it & never come out. Past the trail junction, the terrain gets more lovely as you start spotting a few of the lakes within the glacier-carved valley. Upper Deadfall Lake was one of the highlights along the trail, a place to go swimming before hiking (I didn't do that however).
Upper Deadfall Lake w/ Mt. Eddy (right)
Cobra lily (California pitcher plant), a carnivorous plant growing in its native serpentine soil
Easy trail up Mt. Eddy
Cone of the foxtail pine
Hiking at this elevation was quite easy, and once you were above tree line, the views became more prominent. All I can say is that it's just mountains upon mountains everywhere - there's really no such thing as 'basin & range' out here. Not much mountainous terrain however really goes above tree line, but the sun's effect of making each prominent ridge stick out is incredible. It wasn't far before you reached the Pacific itself, but a high offshoot of the Klamaths to the west blocked any view of the magnificent blue.
Once at the top, there was the remains of a former lookout tower heavily broken down into dilapidated pieces of wood. The true summit is the eastern side, though a walk to the west side provided me w/ a spectacular view of the Deadfall Lakes Basin that I came up. Other views included Lassen Peak to the southeast along w/ Castle Crags, towers of granite that rose above Interstate 5 down below. To the north, one could see Mt. McLoughlin, a prominent eroded strato-volcano in Southern Oregon, though the day was quite hazy from forest fires to be able to see it noticeably. There was a large fire burning somewhere in the Green Trinities area to the southwest - a hiker who I bumped into told me he was staying at a cabin two miles from it. Eeks.
View southwest into the Deadfall Lakes basin from Mt. Eddy, a series of glacial tarn lakes. Smoke from a forest fire is seen in the background
Lassen Peak (10457') in the distance w/ Castle Crags in the foreground
A lone woman takes in the view of Mt. Shasta across the way
If you want to see a spherical panorama from the top of Mt. Eddy, copy this link: http://www.360cities.net/image/l-3 (I hope it works).
All in all, Mt. Eddy is a great pleasant day hike. But it was time for some more rugged adventure in the Trinity Alps. After camping back near the trail head, I left the Mt. Eddy area headed southwest towards the Alps, specifically Gibson & Siligo Peak. It's not a long drive, probably a little more than an hour w/ plenty of scenery. The route down from The Eddys passed by former mining excavations in the rivers before meeting up w/ Highway 3, which was one of the quietest highways I had ever been on in California. Barely any traffic, one could just enjoy it all the way to Weaverville.
Trinity River, where piles of rocks are remnants of former placer gold mining
I arrived at my trail head for the Red Trinities, Long Canyon at 3800'. The high point of Gibson was at 8400'. There were a lot of trailers at the parking lot, & from overhearing some hikers, a team of 30 mules had gone up, led by the California Conservation Corps. I didn't see them during my time up there, but I saw plenty of leftover artifacts infested w/ flies.
I packed out w/ my heavy pack and started up the dusty trail in late afternoon. It followed alongside the creek for a ways as it gradually gained elevation. This part wasn't quite as fun, as it was more of a schlog, even though it was shaded. I was anxious for views & for cliffs. During the ascent, I didn't know exactly where I was going to camp, though I wanted to get close to the first pass, Bee Tree Gap. There's three gentle passes I had to go over before I reached my first peak, Siligo Peak, the furthest of the two.
I did find a spot after seeing that much of the terrain was either too steep or covered by plants. It had a good view of a meadow that was below the rugged spires of Gibson Peak. I did just an overnight camp in the Red Trinities, which was fine although I had a tendency to wake up during the night, imagining that I was hearing things, such as prowling or other movement. The definite noise that kept me up was this stupid great horned owl that would not stop hootin & shrieking for about 30 minutes. A whistle or shine of the flashlight didn't reveal where he was, but I will say the noise did make me unzip the tent, to which the moonlight revealed an ethereal effect of the valley & cliffs I was camped in, almost a B&W effect. Too bad I didn't have a long exposure camera. I went back the noise stopped. More than anything, I had to keep myself alert for when the crack of dawn came to get an early start.
Picturesque campsite in Long Canyon below Gibson Peak
The sun was starting to come out, and I found myself awake w/ a grand view of the Cascades against the light to the east. Without hesitation, I left camp and traveled lightly on the trail as I started my determined rush over the three passes. I didn't keep a pace (as I predicted), since the alpenglow was hitting the mountains and slopes to where I found myself constantly pulling the camera out.
Morning sunrise over the Southern Cascades
Sunrise alpenglow on Gibson Peak
Exhausted & sweaty after awhile, I did find myself eventually at the final pass before taking the small worn trail to the top of the easy Siligo Peak. Before going up the peak, I went just a little further on the main trail to a popular camping location called Diamond Lake, which had a grand view of the White Trinities across the valley to the west. From there, it was a trail-less bushwhack up the loose slope to the top. At the true top however, it was a knife edge w/ some pretty gnarly exposure. For 8162', it had a good view of the area, though Gibson Peak stood up like a much higher double spire to the east. That was my next destination, the primary one.
The White Trinities from Diamond Lake just below Siligo Peak
Knife edge atop Siligo Peak's summit
Deer Lake in the Red Trinities
I ventured back the same way, & at the first pass I crossed (Bee Tree Gap), I took my own way up to Gibson Peak. Once at Bee Tree Gap, Gibson Peak was right there. It's true summit was further down the pinnacled ridge line, hidden from view. The bottom was a large slope of boulders which soon turned into loose scree by the time you got to the top of the ridge. I left my pack down below atop a boulder & continued up w/ just a bottle of glacier blue Gatorade, looking back to the south several times & marveling at the sudden transition into red rock peaks across the way.
Rocky chutes up Gibson Peak from Bee Tree Gap
On granite facing the red slopes across the way
Serrated ridges on Gibson Peak, facing west towards the White Trinities. From here, it's only 60 miles to the Pacific
Gibson Peak is usually summitted from Granite Lake directly below the peak on the northwest side. I was coming from the southeast, having to maneuver around from the north side since the southern face had all the spires & rotten terrain. From the north approach, I found the area a lot more gentle as I was rock hopping & crossing patches of snow & ice, checking my GPS to make sure I was locating the right summit. Occasionally I'd stop at the top of the ridge where I could, facing dramatic exposure all around. The granite itself could almost pass for hiking somewhere in the Western Elks, & the red rock background could be like the Maroon Bells area, though not layered.
Towards Gibson Peak
The final approach to the true top involved climbing this short granite sheet that had various cracks for grip. It was rather fun, just a final push before coming to a summit that had a few plants and stunning views all around. Mt. Shasta stuck out like a sore thumb, Trinity Lake was visible down below, my hiking trail up Long Canyon was prominent against the red outcroppings, and the rest of the White Trinities were truly an eye gazer (as seen on Image #19). I spent about 30 minutes up there before making my way back down and to camp, signing the summit register, which saw a signature about every three weeks during summer months since 2004.
Summit of Gibson Peak. Granite Lake directly below, Trinity Lake towards the horizon
On the way down back to camp, I spent more time looking back at the flora of the area, as well as taking photos of the spires against the afternoon sky. Most of the plants I had no idea what they were. I even stumbled upon a brown snake on the trail itself that when moving it w/ my hiking stick was still alive, but had fallen asleep. Genius place to take a nap & get trampled!
Really want to know what this is - feels like elastic fur
White granite from the red peridotite
A mecca of flora & geology
Natures garden - Indian paintbrush & a patch of blue
Creek crossing below the spires
This guy was asleep in the middle of the trail. He was rather sluggish going back into the bushes
I made it back to the campsite to find three exhausted hikers from the Bay Area taking a rest. They were headed to Diamond Lake to camp, thrilled to be out of a populated area. As I packed up, I started the last few dusty miles back to the car. By then it was late afternoon/early evening. All in all, about 10 hours worth of hiking around the Trinities, & certainly a place I would like to return to. Certainly my next visit would be into the higher peaks of the White Trinities, where the high point, Thompson Peak (9002') was.
Leaving the area, I went back the same way I came from via Parks Creek Road, to where I got an evening shot of the Trinity Alps w/ the individual ridges. Mt. Shasta even stuck out nicely from the Shasta Valley.
Final evening light on the Alps from Parks Creek Road
White outlined area in Northern California is the area roughly explored in this report, w/ the two main peaks. Siligo Peak is next to Gibson Peak
During my time in this remote range, it almost felt like I was taking more photos than I was footsteps. Just each passing trod & there was a new perspective to everything. While it's nice to conquer a 14er & add another tally to my list, it's also nice to explore & see a quieter world where it's just me & the quiet mountains, especially one so picturesque & unknown as the Klamaths. They are well known to folks in this part of the West Coast, but besides that, relatively overlooked considering the scale of the nearby Cascade giants & Sierra Nevada further south.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):