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Ascent of Somerset-The Summit on 2012-02-11

Climber: Edward Earl

Date:Saturday, February 11, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Start at Home
Peak:Somerset-The Summit
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:1190 ft / 362 m

Ascent Trip Report

Being on both the prominence ladder and hierarchy from my current home in Bellevue, I've had my eye on "Somerset Summit" for a long time. My first attempt was in July of 2010, when I was stymied by access - the highest ground seemed to be in the backyard of any of several private residences, and it was difficult to tell which one. Since then, a few other local peakbaggers have summitted this one, and after some research and correspondence, I decided to make another attempt, armed with more information and a renewed resolve to get it somehow.

The transportation game plan was the same - the peak is a 4 mile bike ride from my home. The HP lies in what appears at first glance to be a gated community. Research by others has shown that in reality, access is public - the guard at the entrance kiosk has no right to keep you out. Even if that were a problem, there is still a public hiking trail through Lakemont Highlands Park, with all of the necessary easements to reach the residential streets very close to the summit. Even without that trail, however, access to the neighborhood would still not be a problem for me, because of a "back door" entrance to the neighborhood: a locked fire gate on 153rd Ave/Pl SE ~¼ mile W of the summit. Vehicle access through this gate is not possible, but local residents jog and walk their dogs around the gate all the time. As a biker, I too can bypass the fire gate with no problem.

The summit area is crowned with large, expensive homes, and the HP appears to be near the property boundary between the homes on the E side of 156th Ave SE and the W side of SE 54th St. I decided to first investigate the second house on the L (W) side of 54th (house number 15616), which was a bright orange color that stood out from the much softer colors of most of the other houses in the neighborhood. The house had construction activity; there were construction materials scattered about the front yard and driveway, and sounds of construction coming from inside. To check further, I walked up to the front door, which was sagging on the hinges and not secured. When I knocked there was no answer, only the sound of a power saw inside. As I was waiting, a white van pulled up alongside the sidewalk in front, and a man got out. I asked him if the house was occupied. He didn't seem to speak much English, and he appeared to be a construction worker. At this point I decided that no one would mind my being there, so I walked around to the driveway and climbed 6' up a flight of stairs into the backyard, which is delineated on its W and N sides by a 5' high rock wall topped by a hedge. I climbed the wall to a point where I could peer through gaps in the hedges into other yards. Several other yards appeared to have ground at least 4'-5' higher than where I stood.

At this point I decided to call it a successful summit by invoking the "Rule of Earl", which says that you've summited if some part of your body is higher than the highest ground and there exists a monotonically ascending path from the point where you're standing to the highest ground. However, I found this to be rather unsatisfying and I prefer to invoke the "Rule of Earl" only when all other options have been exhausted, so I decided to continue my quest.

I proceeded to the next house on the W side of 54th (house number 15626). The garage door was open and I heard voices from inside, so I walked up the driveway and waved to a woman who appeared to be of a Hispanic/Asian mix. I explained to her that I wanted to identify and visit the highest ground at Somerset, I thought it was in her backyard, and I asked for her kind graces to walk though the backyard to do that. After pausing for a few seconds, she agreed, and appointed a boy who was with her (appearing about 12 years old and Hispanic) to show me the way. We walked around the L side of the house, and I made one pass through the yard, adjusting my course as necessary to walk over any rises in the ground, although the entire yard is within a few inches of the same elevation and has undoubtedly been levelled to build the house. After completing my circumambulation of the house, I thanked the woman for her kindness, mounted my bike and rode away.

Although I know of at least one person who claims a successful summit from the sidewalk, I do not believe this is possible. Having now been in two different backyards near the HP, I feel that the highest ground is ~8' higher than the highest street or sidewalk elevation, which is why I didn't claim a successful summit on my first attempt. Although there may be some other backyard with higher ground than where I was, the difference can't be more than a foot or so, any invocation of the "Rule of Earl" would be minimal, and only by an unreasonably strict standard could anyone possibly argue that I haven't summitted. Having done in it a completely legal and kosher manner makes it feel even more satisfying.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:975 ft / 297 m
    Distance:8 mi / 12.9 km
    Route:150th Ave SE, Se 53rd Pl, 153rd Ave SE, 156th Ave
    Trailhead:Highlands  215 ft / 65 m
    Gear Used:
Bicycle
Ascent Statistics
    Time Up:1 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time Down:1 Hours 



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