Sabre Ridge in a Day
Both Hayden and I are in the thick of research right now, so time to get away has been scarce. We planned a trip to the Kaweahs over a weekend several times, but we couldn't get 2 days off. So we settled for a single day trip. Hayden had his eye on Sabre ridge which is a mile long knife edge ridge on super high quality rock, deep in the Sequoia Backcountry. This route was only reported in 2008 and is well protected from the crowds by a 15 mile approach to the base. Many people compare this route to the crowded Matthes Crest route in Tuolumne by using phrases like "not even a comparison" and "way radder".
Hayden and I figured that we could simul-climb the route in a couple hours (I had been practicing in Yosemite and around Bishop recently and Hayden climbs 5.20) and we could hike the round trip 30ish miles and 9ish thousand vertical feet in around 12 hours which would mean something like a 14-18 hour day.
After group meeting, we drove up to the high sierra trail trailhead in crescent meadow, and went to bed. We woke up at 3:00am, ate a quick breakfast, and were on the trail in 20 minutes. The high sierra highway allowed us to move quickly, my phone told me that we had moved about 5 mph for the first hour. By 9am we had filtered water and were well on our way to the base of the climb. Class 2 turned class 3 slabs and then 4th class slabs. I was slow and nervous on the 4th class slabs and had to put on my climbing shoes. Hayden breezed by and waited patiently for me to catch up. On my way up I found a belay device that said the name of a party that had been benighted on the route a week previous, I bet the belay device would have helped!
We collected eachother at the top of the saddle between some rock formation and Sabre Ridge proper. Hayden had purchased a 7mm 70m rope that we folded over and used as a half rope. I tied in to the middle using a bowline on a bite and Hayden tied into the sharp ends using a figure 8. Hayden led and I followed. We stay pretty much on the ridge with just a few slight deviations, mostly to climbers left. There were two 5.7 cruxes that I told Hayden to put me on belay for about 10 feet, but otherwise I would describe the route as highly exposed 3rd, 4th, and 5.easy. The route included one true knife edge section that had to be lay-backed. Also it was very committing as rappelling down either side would be very risky and would involve loosing a lot of gear.
We bunched up 3 or 4 times to swap gear and eat snacks. We unroped at the base of the summit block where I found a water bottle, and we scrambled to the summit, I took an easier 3rd class route and Hayden stuck with the ridge for the last 100 feet. The summit had amazing views of the great western divide and the Kaweahs. I had been here once before on my traverse of the Sierras in May, we camped on our fist night directly below this peak. By the time we made it to the summit I was pretty hungry and starting to bonk. Hayden was energized from the awesome climb. Hayden scrambled down to the West to look for a descent route, but couldn't find one that we both could do, so we scrambled east where we found a circuitous system of ledges and gullies. A little snow walking and we were in Deadman canyon. Hayden ran to Elizabeth pass and I dragged ass over there. I spent a good 20 minutes eating a ton of snacks including some amazing smoked salmon from Patagonia. Salt and calories had me feeling a bit better but I was still slow on the way down. Eating constantly, I ran a little and walked a little. I didn't have a belt because it was stolen in Italy, and my sagging pants were impeding my progress so I took my pants off deciding that underwear would serve me better. They did. By the time I was down from the pass the food had kicked in and I was ready to roll again.
Hayden and I moved quickly back towards our car, running the downhills and hiking the uphills and flats. We (mostly me) looked pretty silly running with climbing gear and in my underwear. Like always we completely forgot distances in the dark and stupor of morning and at one point we were pretty sure that we were 2 miles from the car when we ran into a sign saying we were 6 miles from the car. This sunk our spirit, but the view was still good. Eventually we ran into big trees which brought the stoke back! And we were back at the car in the giant forest. The final time was 15 hrs and 5 minutes for 31 miles and 9,000 vertical feet, well within our estimated range and most importantly, before it got dark! RAD