By: Don Martin
On August 26, 1996 I solo climbed Black Kaweah. This mountain is so rarely climbed that it is one of only three in the Sierras that have the original summit register on the mountain. I was only the eighth party to climb it this year.
I left camp at Big Arroyo at 6:20 a.m. After walking 15 minutes on the High Sierra Trail, I turned right at the first stream crossing and followed the stream uphill through a beautiful alpine meadow, over talus until I passed the moraine lake (which has no outlet).
At the base of the mountain, I approached a gully beneath a dried out waterfall ( which had the black stains of a waterfall ). After climbing to the cliff at the bottom of the waterfall, I turned left on a ramp and traveled 75 feet to the next gully. I took this gully. sloping al about 45 degrees, to the top of the mountain. In the gully I traversed by constantly switching from one ramp to another-these ramps made it a very reasonable third class the entire way. There were only about three difficult class three moves. The main risk was that if another person were above me he would trigger high velocity rockfall that my helmet could not withstand. If you travel with others you must travel together and move extremely carefully. You will need to slow to the speed of the slowest person in the group. Helmets are a necessity. Rope is not needed. The other serious challenge is that you will need to use handholds and many are "friable", i.e.. they are not to be used-you must test each hold before using it.
At the final 50 feet the gully reduces its angle to a 20 degree slope. The summit is a six: foot diameter flat spot that is easy to reach. You will really enjoy the summit view and the ancient register with prominent mountaineer's signatures.
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