Monday, September 19, 2011

Diamond Peak - Lassen National Park - 9/10/11

          With all the research I did before the trip about possible hikes and things to check out in Lassen I never came across Diamond Peak once. Interestingly enough besides Lassen Peak and Brokeoff Mountain it is one of the first landmarks that caught our eye as we drove into the park Friday evening.
          Diamond Peak as well as Lassen and many other surrounding peaks are remnants of an ancient volcano known as Mt. Tehama or Brokeoff Volcano. Diamond Peak was named for the quartz crystals trapped in its andesite rock.
          There is not a pullout or official trail to the peak but there is a wood sign alongside the road with an arrow pointing to the peak that gives a good indicator of where to start the climb.

The Route Starts Here

          We parked off the road a short ways from the Diamond Peak sign and set off cross country heading in the obvious direction of the ridge line leading to the peak. We walked through fields of Lupine and Mule’s Ears.

Field of Lupine

          Our route brought us along an open ridge line with views of Brokeoff Mountain towering to the west.

Brokeoff Mountain

Brokeoff Mountain

          We dipped down in elevation slightly before entering a sparse forest of Lodgepole Pine and Mountain Hemlock where we began to climb in earnest. We avoided going straight up and instead traversed the steep slope to a saddle below the peak. Even though the sun was blazing, there was still a decent sized snow drift left on the upper flanks of the mountain. The faint use path we found traveled through loose volcanic gravel and scree. At times it felt like two steps back for every step forward. Once we reached the saddle great vistas abound around us. We scampered up the loose embankment to the pinnacles at the top where the footing became borderline dangerous with unstable and erosive volcanic rock. Sarah stayed behind as I scrambled further up toward the highest pinnacle. I made it to a nice flat area with tremendous views, however the last 12 feet or so was a vertical climb to the highest point. Due to the erosive nature of volcanic rocks it is not advisable to rock climb so I considered the platform where I stood a victory.

View from just below the highest pinnacle of Diamond Peak

Volcanic Formations on Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak 7968'

Good Times on Diamond Peak

          As we started our descent we couldn’t believe our eyes. Two young men were literally running up what we just struggled to hike. We greeted the two joggers just below the summit where each had but a single bead of sweat dripping from their nose. They were visiting from Australia and apparently had run the length of the ridge all the way from Lassen to Diamond Peak. We were astonished to see that they weren’t carrying any water at all. I guess long distance running in Australia will prepare you for just about anything!
          We continued downhill this time noticing small diamond shaped signs posted up in trees about every 50 feet or so to mark the trail. Apparently this is a marked route after all. We found a nice spot along the slope to sit and have lunch.

Sarah Descending

Mule's Ear and Diamond Peak

View from our Lunch Spot

          While eating our lunch there were two grouse that were flushed from a nearby bush and flew into a tree beside us. We glanced back up at Diamond Peak just in time to see one of the Aussies a top the highest pinnacle. I won’t lie, after seeing someone on the very top of Diamond Peak I felt a little jealous.
          We continued our descent but stopped often to enjoy the views and fields of Silver Lupine.
          Before long we were back at the car and the end of our hike. From there we drove back to our campsite at Summit Lake.

(Click HERE to continue reading about DAY 1 of our Lassen Trip)

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