In a range of mainly granite peaks Linda seems to be collecting the loose ones. Last year we did Devils Crag and other peaks of the Black Divide. This year it was Black Kaweah. Black has a reputation as hard to get to and hard to climb. Not because of any 5th class rating, but because of it’s looseness and difficult route finding. On the other hand it has a summit register going back to 1924. That alone is enough to make anyone want to climb it.
We drove to Wolvertson and meet our packer ‘Rowdy” (who was actually pretty quiet) from Horse Corral packers on the 13th of August. The packs went in via mule the initial 20 miles to Nine Lakes Basin in the upper part of Big Arroyo and we hiked in unencumbered, but even with day packs it is still along way but the scenery up Valhalla Canyon past Angel Wings and Hamilton Dome is stunning. We dragged into camp late in the evening.
A casual day 2 took us to a bivy site below Black Kaweah where we were surprised to meet a group of three descending from the peak. They were a Sierra Club group who said that another Club group of 8 was coming in a few weeks later. As we found this route is not one to be on with 8 other people.
Day three we started early. We decided upon the Southwest Face for the ascent rather than the West ridge which looks like a crest of tottering blocks and rotten rock.The approach involves some loose talus but not too much. You start in the right gully and then after 100 feet traverse along a ledge to the left to the next gully.
From here the route unfolds pretty easily and route finding is not a big deal. Just keep going up and the way unfolds. The rock however is loose and requires care and attention. Do not pull on anything without testing it and be aware. We were on top late morning and the descent took about as long as the ascent. The summit register is by far the highlight of the climb. It is a veritable who’s who of Sierra climbing. Norman Clyde appears a few times, once with three women and numerous people have wondered if Norman got lucky. Norman also calls the climb a “dandy climb”. Got to use that term more often! Walter Starr Junior’s entry is in blood. The register is something to handle with care and appreciate since there are few of these left in the Sierra these days. From camp we packed up and returned to Nine Lakes Basin where we had let food in a Bear barrel.
To collect another summit we climbed Eagle Scout peak, which has a wonderful view down into Valhalla Canyon, and an overhanging tabletop flat summit block where you can sit and dangle feet over the void. From camp we packed up and headed back out. We had hopped to stop for dinner at the Bearpaw Meadow Camp for dinner, but our reservation had been bumped by guests who were staying the night so there seemed little option but to keep hiking out, camping along the High Trail and getting to the trailhead early the next morning.
A great trip to one of the Sierra’s best summits – just ignore the long hike and the poor rock.
Unfortunately SP was dumb enough to leave the camera behind so if you want to checkout some photos go to our friend ken Duncan’s website at
Ken did the ascent earlier in 2007
For reference for any of you wanting to do the climb here are our estimate of distances, elevation changes via the alitmeter and the times it took us.
Aug 13: 9 hrs, 5900 ft gain, 3160 ft descent, 20+ trail miles w/daypacks to Nine Lakes Basin.
Aug 14: 3 hrs, 1560 ft gain, cross country travel with full packs to high camp below Black Kaweah.
Aug 15: 8 hrs, 4000 ft gain, 4000 ft descent, climb Black Kaweah & then back to Nine Lakes Basin.
Aug 16: 11 hrs, 4400 ft gain, 6400 ft descent, climb Eagle Scout Peak return to camp and hike with full packs about 15 miles from Nine Lakes Basin toward Wolverton.
Aug 17: 2:11 hrs, 800 ft gain, 1570 ft descent, backpack about 5 miles back to Wolverton.