Hyperion Coast Redwood
World's tallest discovery, 2006, Redwood National Park, 379.65' (386')
Continued from Coast Redwoods Main Page
Copyright 2009 - 2017 by Mario Vaden
Hyperion was discovered 2006, published as the tallest redwood for about 7 years. Various sources make claims about data, but fact-check and don't propagate speculation as fact. My Redwood Discovery page adds some extra insight. Prior to 2014, Hyperion was documented and published as height 379.65 ft. & diameter 15.2 ft.. In 2017, Dr. Chris Earle at conifers.org provided this:
Height 380.08 ft. & Diameter dbh 15.87 ft.
Hyperion was found August 25, 2006 by Chris Atkins & Michael Taylor, one of three world record coast redwoods found 2006 in Redwood National Park. The 3 redwoods of 2006 were Hyperion, Helios and Icarus. That gave Redwood Naitonal Park claim to the three tallest in the same park. Between 2013 to 2016 heights shuffled the deck and by 2014 Redwood National Park already lost claim to all three tallest in one park. Growth rates changed and during drier growing seasons 2014 & 2015. new tallest coast redwoods were discovered missed by LiDAR. More than one lost height, a new world record discovery was made, and heights of all tallest redwoods changed. Nothing is the same. May 2017, Atkins reported one loss of height of 25 feet. Presently, a coast redwood is approaching 390' tall. With Sequoia sempervirens inching toward 390', maybe 400' is realistic in my generation. Keep in mind, Redwood National Park's signs and social media often miss pieces of the puzzle, are out-of-date, or inaccurate (proven by the BigTree sign). Take some of the park's posts with a grain of salt.
Quick interjection - surveillance cameras were placed near Hyperion and other coast redwoods. Scroll down my Grove of Titans page to learn more.
From 2006 to 2013 near Hyperion, there were no traces on the ground of wear & tear or human activity. Near the end of 2015, one of the original group who first saw Hyperion in 2006, noted some obvious change around Hyperion, denoting an unknown number of people wandered through. So some kind of change is happening
From photos spanning several years, I picked a 2000 x 3000 image showing the base of Hyperion early 2014. Select the small image to the right to enlarge for detail. Even the sorrel looks pristine. A reader's image was added down in December updates showing human impact.
This larger image provides a genuine example what "uneffected by foot traffic" looks like. As strange as it may seem, that is what the base of Stout redwood would have looked like 100 years ago before small plants vanished and ground packed all around it. This 2014 image offers a perfect benchmark for future comparison.
The image below is the oldest top-to-bottom view of Hyperion. Available on 16 x 32 print canvas. This is the complete photo farthest-removed from human influence, taken one rainy January 23rd back in 2009. In that regard the four-frame composite is historical.
I will be sparing about directions because many folks like figuring it out themselves. A few people emailed whether the January 2016 discovery "Hail Storm" is related, but I can't shed more light for a few years. It's mention was meant to bolster others' enthusiasm that new stuff to discover from scratch will exist. Redwood National Park and Humboldt Redwoods State Park are not fully explored. Remember Robert Van Pelt, "there's always a bigger one out there"
The image below shows coast redwood devastation. This is the same kind of event that happened when Dyerville Giant fell and when Telperion fell. Chris Atkins pauses - takes it in - then moves on. Eventually, every coast redwood we read about will meet this fate. Michael Taylor was the first one recently to tell me about the fallen redwood found when he visited the place Atkins described to author Clynes as "the right spot". One of the ten-tallest (Apex) was reported collapsed, but I haven't confirmed this through Atkins yet, who keeps accurate record of the Humboldt redwoods.
Continue below this image for more information
My first encounter with Hyperion / M. D. Vaden
My first time to Hyperion was back in 2009 when the trek was more of an adventure. Clues were far more scarce those years. I approached about 11:30 am, January 23, 2009, and reached Hyperion around 11:45 am. It was an overcast, cold and rainy day. Due to the path I chose that day, my clothes were saturated chest high from wading through water up to 4 feet deep.
I was hesitant, but Michael Taylor encouraged me to keep going. He never shared the location, but suggested to proceed. Apparently I was the first "outsider" to locate Hyperion. And on a first attempt. Although I found scraps from Richard Preston's redwood adventure book my choice of area was based on arboriculture and what seemed like a good place to look for a tallest redwood as if it hadn't been found and I was going to pick a place to search for a world record on my own.
Other than Ladybird Johnson Grove, I may have been the only person visiting Redwood National Park that day. Redwood Creek was full and so were the tributaries. Some spots were deep enough to raise my pack overhead. Unlike these days (2016), I determined Hyperion by it's apex rather than the base, because any clues pertaining to the base or surrounding logs could be misleading or misinterpreted.
Especially in winter, the area feels like a wilderness. I recall being apprehensive, probably because I went in there solo that day. When I spotted claw marks on logs, it made me a little more nervous. But afterward, I focused my thoughts on redwoods, hemlocks, maples and photos. By afternoon, I became comfortable, and it became one of my most memorable redwood adventures.
Hyperion Coast Redwood was the tallest known of all plant species in the world from 2006 to 2013. The 2012 measurement was 115.66m or 379.46' high, 15.2' diameter at dbh or 4.5' above average grade. It is mostly a single stem redwood with fire charring on the trunk. Hyperion looks like a stereotypical Sequoia sempervirens.
The stem length on the low side was 386 ft. It's location is a hillside above a creek of Redwood National Park. In a sense, you could accurately say Hyperion is a 386 ft. tall redwood. One professional measuring standard averages the height based on the upslope and downslope reach of the trunk. But if it were possible to remove Hyperion from the earth, hang it from a crane and dangle the bottom reach of the trunk on the ground, it would stand no less than 386 ft. tall. It's safe to say Hyperion was 386 ft. tall from the lowest reach to the highest reach of it's trunk.
Around August 26, 2006, forest expert Dr. Robert VanPelt referred to this redwood as "unnamed" and wrote "The most significant year in tree height measuring just joined the ranks of years like 1066, 1492, etc."
Image right: coast redwoods near Klamath and Yurok territory ..... some notable new discoveries have not been published, named or shown. Post-2013 the real tallest and largest coast redwoods are only known among a few researchers and discoverers, regardless of speculations you may find online. Most amateur speculators no matter how high their IQ, have limited data and usually do a very sloppy job measuring redwoods.
Around 2013, the most skilled discoverers pushed into new territory. Many new discoveries were made including tallest redwoods that did not show up on LiDAR lists.
In other words, redwood forest had been flown-over with LiDAR equipment before indicating potential tallest redwoods and the results were investigated and measured. But the same forest was re-explored, and new discoveries were made that did not appear in the LiDAR set. Also, some expanses of Redwood and National State Parks wwre not explored or scanned with LiDAR gear.
Likewise, other forests not flown over for LiDAR were also explored, including old growth coast redwoods near Klamath, etc.. I cropped-out the tallest redwood which was to the right, but the old-growth is evident. Even today, the redwood forest is not fully explored or re-explored but we are still out there looking for more. On the other hand, as noted on my discovery page, the curtain is closing as the era of redwood discovery draws to a final episode.
During the first climb shown by National Geographic researcher Steve Sillett said foliage near the top was not as reduced in size as expected. The needles still had some "expansion" indicating potential for extra height.
The first climb involved Dr. Steve Sillett, his wife Marie Antoinne, Jim Spickler and author Richard Preston. National Geographic's film crew tagged along plus 3 officials from Save the Redwoods League, one being Ruskin Hartley who carried the crossbow for Sillett that September 16, 2006. Michael Taylor and Chris Atkins who discovered it were also present.
Image: glimpse into the canopy, one trunk with unique hook-arm reiterations
Prior to 2010, a plane flew over several redwood parks for LiDAR but left the door open for more unknown super tall redwoods because swaths of Redwood National Park area was skipped or missed for some reason. Tallest redwoods have been found in the LiDAR zone which were undetected. That basically opened up all parks flown-over for LiDAR to re-exploration, and of course, we returned. A new height record occured between 2013 and 2016, surpassing the 379.1 ft. world record set by Hyperion in 2006.
The forest has no shortage of changes and surprises. A lot of people thought there was no chance another largest coast redwood trunk existed, but there were more in reserve, and eventually we found some. Chance has potential.
The largest waterway is Redwood Creek with Prairie Creek as largest tributary. Lost Man Creek is another tributary. Among this web of waterways and slopes stand quite a few Coast Redwoods over 350 feet including Hyperion.
My favorite story by others is the 2007 Above and Beyond by Clynes. Even though I have been to Hyperion a couple of times, I still enjoy reading this fun article. If it is still online, see ... Above and Beyond Article
The narrative unfolds as if they they picked Redwood Creek trailhead close to Orick. That article opens weighing options in hours and pints of blood. Their first search party had a 75% casualty rate for injuries the first day. I found interesting quirks comparing Preston's book with Clynes story.
Image: my photography assistant at the base of tall Hyperion redwood. Over 80 degrees - May 1, 2014.
Clynes never did find Hyperion, but he closed his story with a great appreciation for the forest. Its worth the read. Clynes contacted co-discoverer Chris Atkins afterward to chat. Around April, 2015, Chris and I stopped for an IPA and supper where I asked about his conversation with Clynes, and Atkins confirmed the phone call.
He mentioned at least an "hour" of "sloshing" and the narrative indicates one of the next days was even farther so they could have gone a full mile or more to solitide grove up Redwood Creek. The article began with 10 ft. log jams. Coming out of the gate, the story has a McArthur Creek vibe. But the Rhododendron patches ring true of Forty Four creek or Elam creek north slope. Clynes never says how many days they spent. The "last" day in context of the call to Atkins remains a mystery. Some people assume the last stretch is the last day. But whether they looked 2 days or 5 days, he did not reveal. It appears Clynes went up several creeks and "trimmed fat" off the narrative to conceal the exact details where the "right place" was. Here's an excerpt:
"Wow," he said. "You managed to find your way into one of the most spectacular groves on earth." He asked a few more questions, regarding how far up the creek we went, which side we climbed, how high we went. After I described the location, Atkins was silent for what seemed like a long time.
"You were in the right place," he said finally. "You probably walked right past it"
In the beginning, the park's ranger made the effort to draw their attention to a specific stand of redwoods and one part of the park. That's about the only time Clynes names a spot they went. Afterward, they left to study maps for where to lead themselves. They went to the visitor center south of Orick for a "better" map. Its uncertain what map they started with or whether a ranger provided any at the "headquarters" operations center earlier in the story.
One section in the narrative that reveals their thoughts . . .
"I turned discreetly and scanned the steep, mazelike country upstream. Somewhere up there, Hyperion had been quietly holding forth for decades"
Considering the exact spot the ranger took them, Clynes' comment points toward Bridge Creek, Emerald Creek, etc..
www.curlyredwoodlodge.com (707) 464 - 2137 @ 701 Hy. 101 S. Crescent City, CA 95531. Click photo for more .. 8 / 2014
Tags on Redwoods
Tags on redwoods are not reliable for verification. Between canopy researchers and other studies, there are scores of tags. Tags for some redwoods are across opposite sides of valleys on trunks of other Redwoods or Douglas Firs where the window was open to use a laser aiming back across the valley again.
Between 2008 and 2011 the number of tags multiplied, still increasing.
Keyhole in the Landscape
Richard Preston wrote of a keyhole in the landscape, leading to Hyperion Valley. For a while, it made no sense. Eventually, I realized that one or two spots in the park can be described as a keyhole. Due to changes in activity and info this year, I decided to reveal the "keyhole" in the landscape described by Preston. Scroll down page for the image.
October 10, 2015 update
Found an interesting error this month. Someone posted online that Hyperion's canopy / crown is the greatest known, over 90 meters top to bottom. Almost 300 ft. worth. The error is connected to a series of errors on coast redwoods. Anyhow, among the coast redwoods named in Preston's 2007 redwood book and on my website, Hyperion is exceeded in this regard. There is more out there well over 300 ft. top to bottom. This goes to show how easily misinformation can spread when people disconnect themselves.
July 2016 Update
July, 2016, a group from a Foursquare Church in Humboldt documented with their own words the initial stages of new damage near Hyperion saying "we created our own footholds into the mud", which is exactly how 3300 square meters of damage started at Grove of Titans.
I think their intention was to have fun, but their words were specific. That's how thousands of plants got obliterated at the G.O.T.. A succession of seemingly linconsequential movements. At 3:05 to 3:07 when they break a Rhododendron, an unbiased viewer will realzie the group broke much more than that. To the few who went there back in 2006 to 2014, watching new millenial seekers is like watching a science experiment. In the past, others moved delicately. These days, it's different.
December 2016 Update
Hyperion may not see the same traffic as the Grove of Titans. But it's fair to document any activity and change for the record.
A reader here, saw a recent image I added at the top of the page showing Hyperion's base in it's pristine condition during early 2014. The reader, Mark, submitted an image taken near Hyperion, the end of summer 2015. A year and a few months afterward. It confirms what I was told by one researcher that the area around Hyperion was starting to get a "thrashed" appearance.
Select the image to the right for a larger view. The more orange areas are where boots started to grind-down the bark, pulverizing the surface into fine dust and particles. The small vegetation has already been reduced, evident by comparison to my 2014 image.
If you enlarge the photo, there's no way to miss the initial stages of wear and tear. This is exactly what the first phase of wear looked like around the base of Screaming Titans up in Jedediah Smith Redwood State Park.
December 2016 Update #2
The past few years, several people claimed to "find" Hyperion, some adding they found the world's tallest tree. In a nutshell, none of them know for certain. Their speculation has to be conjecture. Unless Dr. Sillett puts height data side-by-side with actual names, it may be near impossible to know or prove what's what. If anyone happens to find names and heights together, bookmark and save the reference to back up commentary on any redwood or park. Unlikely it will come out of HSU, but expert sources are worth saving whenever possible.
Who is the photo assistant?
Jenni ... the one who inspired artistic documentary redwood prints with you may have seen in a gallery. She enjoys photography, video, and hiking. Our first photo sessions were in Eureka and Humboldt. Her friend Lotus was the first person I practiced forest portraits with. They both helped lay the foundation of my redwood portraiture and prints displayed at the redwood coast. The world's tallest maple was named Humboldt Honey after a photo of Jenni taken near Koster St.. in Eureka, by a huge stack of logs. Jenni enjoys the outdoors of Humboldt, dancing and yoga. I've taken over a thousand photos of her in many stands of redwoods, but only a fraction have ever been posted. The bay laurel laurel shown has some of the more fragrant leaves you may sense in Redwood National Park. The small vertical stems were briefly explained in my coast redwood photo album book.
Image: the first image is Chris Atkins, co-discoverer of Hyperion, swimming in Redwood National Park in the area described by author Clynes in the Backpacker Magazine article Above and Beyond. See commentary on this page about the area upstream from Solitude Grove
The second image is the specific "keyhole" in the landscape described by author Richard Preston. It becomes more distinct during overcast weather and looking from this direction.
Image: the "keyhole" in the landscape described by author Richard Preston. It becomes more distinct during overcast weather and looking from this direction.
Image: Hyperion Valley in Redwood National Park, winter time, January 23, 2009.
Image: Hyperion Valley, January 23, 2009. Cold, saturated and swollen with rainwater.
Image: scores of fallen logs packed like sardines from the power of raging floodwaters. January 23, 2009. Hyperion Valley in Redwood National Park.
Image: Claw marks in close proximity to Hyperion redwood. These claw marks conveyed two more things about Hyperion other than the fact black bears are there in addition to mountain lions (which tracks I also found). The claw marks were wide, meaning the bears are large. But the length proved that getting a foothold is just as slippery for bears,