The Loma Prietan - July 2014

Dancing Beneath The Diamond Sky

A Peak Climbing Section trip report

By Aaron Schuman

Branded on my Feet Photo: by Bo Meng and Aaron Schuman
Branded on my Feet Photo: by Bo Meng and Aaron Schuman

Hey Mister! We set out for Diamond Peak: Linda Sun, Terry Cline, Bo Meng, Matt Blum, and me – Aaron Schuman. It was a third Memorial Weekend attempt for me. In 2012, I started up the mountain, but my plastic boot cracked in half and I turned around. In 2013, we were crossing Yosemite on our way to the trailhead, when a heavy snowstorm closed Tioga Pass. But this time, the weather was in our favor, the equipment was functional, and the team was strong. We were going to the summit.






Ready to go Anywhere

Evening’s Empire! Considering that the Baxter Pass trail is little used, the dirt road to the 5800-foot trailhead is in excellent condition. The trail itself, however, hasn’t been maintained in decades. Three creek crossings might be difficult if the water was high, but 2014 is a record dry year. Downed trees obstructed our way. The trail disappeared into fields of fallen rock, reappeared, and disappeared again. We camped on pine duff at Summit Meadow. The campsite is actually at 9900 feet, but the map incorrectly puts it at 10300. There are few good sites above. During the clear, moonless night, we slept under an infinite blanket of stars.

Weariness Amazes! In the morning, we went up a distance and broke off the trail to a secondary drainage to the left. By about 11000 feet, the ground was about 50/50 scree and snow. At the cirque with Black Mountain and Diamond Peak, we saw an obvious ramp to the Diamond plateau. We had a choice of traveling on loose scree or soft and shallow snow. The mediocre footing made us wish that we had gone earlier in the spring, when we could climb on a more secure cover of deep, consolidated snow.


One Hand Waving

Diamond Sky! As we climbed the ramp, we watched a high point on the Pacific Crest, but when we reached the plateau we realized that the summit was somewhere else. The 13127-foot peak was easily attained with some class 2 climbing. In perfect, clear air, we could see everything from the Kaweah Range to the Evolutions. Across the Sierra Nevada, we watched another PCS party, as small as ants, making their way up North Guard. I gave a mountaintop karaoke rendition of Tambourine Man. My virtuoso performance has found new life as an embarrassing YouTube video. Bob Dylan sang of a dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free. The summit area was too small for a full fandango, but I did joyfully lift one arm heavenward. The song lyrics are the outline of this trip report.

Come Follow! The highest rock on Diamond Peak is the largest chunk of native diamond I have ever seen. I would have brought home a sample to show you, but mining is not allowed in the John Muir Wilderness. You’ll have to go on up and see it for yourself.