Black Kaweah (N#143, T#70), Red Kaweah (N#144, T#71), Mount Kaweah (N#145, T#72)
Nathan Day 94, Travis Day 40
I lived in Big Sur for a few months last winter at my friend Ethan's yurt. He taught me how to surf and spear fish. The only problem was that the Pacific ocean is very cold, especially that time of year. I remember him saying, "Jump in every day and your body will get used to it. It will even start to crave the cold water." At first I was skeptical but soon found there was truth in his words. I have also found the same is true with mountains.
From far away mountains are unbelievably big. They loom over you and say "try me if you dare." And why should you? It seems like an awful lot of work to climb a mountain. Not to mention potentially dangerous and totally unnecessary. And yet there is something within us that craves the cold water. If you dive into that sea of granite, and begin walking up that mountain, you will find yourself among turquoise lakes under endlessly blue alpine sky. You will hop from boulder to boulder and scramble up cracks and chimneys. Your sweat will sting your eyes as you look up towards the summit wondering why it's still so far away. Your knees will hurt, your feet will ache, and you will struggle to find oxygen up there. It will be difficult. But you will eventually reach the top of the mountain. And from the top you will see many other mountains. From far away they will look big and impossible. But just as you crave the cold water, you also crave the climb, and even though its unnecessary and difficult and dangerous, soon you will begin walking up the next mountain.
This is how I was feeling a month in to the project. My body was a bit fatigued but my appetite for mountain climbing had only grown. And after catching glimpses of the striking Kaweah skyline from all angles, Nathan and I were hungry.
The skyline boasts a sharp series of dark reddish towers standing at over 13,000ft of elevation. The rock is notorious for being heinously loose and sketchy. The Kaweahs are the Sierra's rosebud and thorns, beautiful but with serious terrain.
We rose early and from our camp headed towards the west ridge of Black Kaweah, named for its dark granite.
The ridge consisted of a bit of 3rd class scrambling and steepened the higher up the mountain we climbed.
It became clear this rock was not to be trusted and we would have to be extra careful not to grab the wrong hold or knock anything on one another.
The travel was slower than on the average Sierra ridgeline due to the treacherous rock.
Eventually we reached the summit after climbing through the loose rock.
Being on top was awesome, however we both noticed the east ridge, our descent route, looked very involved.
The air felt a bit tense as we both anxiously descended off the summit and onto the jagged east ridge.
We wove our way over and around the dark red choss (loose rock) making sure to be careful with each step and always have at least three points of contact in case one breaks.
We could see the gulley we needed to get to but there were still a series of towers we had to navigate. In terms of distance it was not far, but the terrain in between was some of the worst rock I'd ever climbed on. Every move seemed to knock at least two or three small rocks down into the abyss.
I was downclimbing a steep section and trying to get over to a ledge five feet below me when I touched a big rock that moved. It was about the size of a microwave, and at first I thought I'd better not touch it. Then I decided I would knock it down so Nathan wouldn't use it and potentially get hurt. I threw it down onto the ledge I was aiming for. As soon as it hit the ledge, the entire ledge itself liquefied into a massive wave of falling rocks and cascaded down the gulley. Nathan and I were speechless for 30 seconds watching the rocks crash around and eventually land in the snow below. We glanced at each other mouths open and horrified. That was one of the sketchiest things either of us had seen in the mountains. Good thing I had thrown the rock rather than stepping on the ledge myself!
After that incident we moved even more gingerly and after another hour or so found ourselves on solid ground.
Thank goodness! The descent had taken us way longer than expected but at least we were both safe and sound. On to Red Kaweah.
Thankfully the climb up Red was straightforward and non-technical. From the summit we looked back at Black Kaweah.
Surely it is one of the most rugged peaks in the Sierra. If I'd gotten a look at the east ridge from here I probably wouldn't have dared try to downclimb it. Well now we know!
We descended Red and traversed over to Mount Kaweah.
The climb was long but straightforward.
We gazed over at Mount Whitney. A month ago we had been up there ogling the Kaweahs and now here we were. What a crazy feeling! We've climbed so many mountains since then.
The light was fading so we descended our way back to camp and arrived just before it got dark. Overall it had been a good day; adventurous, but good.
View the activity here.