Sometimes small packages hold big surprises and that's the case for Kraft Mountain. Despite being diminutive, Kraft offers enjoyable scrambling among candy-striped boulders, some the size of a small house. Along the way, we traversed over Big Bird Peak.
Summitpost offers four ways to reach the top of Kraft although none were described in detail. Of these, the gully directly south of the summit appeared to be the simplest and shortest. As we were going to meet our friend Nish afterwards at 3:00, this needed to be a quick trip.
But after Dinah and I started up the south gully, we found the route unexpectedly demanding. Not only was it steeper than we expected, but towering rock and huge boulders compounded routefinding. Dinah had no patience that day for extended scrambling so she bailed. I continued solo but the south gully wasn't winning any favours with me either, and I soon became discouraged by the arduous routefinding. I dropped down and rejoined Dinah.
But I wasn't going to give up on Kraft; I wanted to try the east end. It wasn't a route mentioned by Summitpost, but a friend of ours had successfully done it. I didn't know his route, but after studying the mountain, a possible way up presented itself.
Looking at the east end of Kraft from bottom to top, I saw a rubbly slope, a ledge, a cliff band and then a half-hidden gully stretching to a notch on the ridgeline. We could hike along the ledge at the base of the cliff band and where the band ended, we could turn the corner and ascend the gully to the ridgeline notch. The grade above the notch appeared to ease. Still, it was possible to hit steep rock anywhere and get turned back, and since we only had a few hours, we may not have had time to search for other routes.
As it turned out, the way up was as simple as it appeared. That is, simple for a mountain like Kraft with its enormous boulders and towering rock faces. We had to do a lot of routefinding, but we never dead-ended and with relative ease we reached the high point on the east end of the mountain. The ridge traverse to the summit on the west end was delightful and fast. We made it back to our car with time to spare for our rendezvous.
When we met Nish afterwards, we told him we had climbed Kraft and asked if he had done it. At first he was reluctant to talk about it, but after some chiding, he gave in. Nish had climbed the mountain in the evening with the Las Vegas Meetup. Although inexperienced at the time, confidence surged within him when after they summited and he discovered a descent route. Excitedly, he descended quickly until suddenly he ran out of negotiable slope. Not only was it too steep to continue down but with nightfall descending, it was too dangerous to go back up! Much to his chagrin, he had to be rescued.
The rest of the group had gathered below Nish but within shouting distance. Someone called a rescue helicopter while another ordered pizza. It would be a long night. The first helicopter couldn't find a flat spot to make a landing, so a larger copter capable of a sling rescue was requested. After Nish was plucked safely off the mountainside, he rejoined his friends but not without taking a lot of ribbing.
We tried the south gully (far left) only to abort and instead ascend the east end (far right). From there, we traversed the ridge to Big Bird Peak (right)
and Kraft Mountain (left).
Heading to the south gully
Strawberry hedgehog cactus
Negotiating the lower slopes below the gully
I started working my way to the right to reach the gully (mouse over to zoom in) but soon gave up
We decide to try climbing to the notch on the east end of Kraft
On the ledge
I checked to see if this was a tunnel, but it wasn't
Still on the ledge
Starting up the gully
Looking for the best way up
Although steep, the gully was easy to scramble up
We reach the ridge crest at the notch
Climbing above the notch
I thought we would be stopped by the rocks above us...
But we found a tunnel!
Travel becomes easier
The ridge levels out
From the high point ahead, Big Bird Peak, we'll see the summit
Despite the routefinding and scrambling, the traverse to the summit took only 20 minutes
Looking back partway along the ridge
We lose a bit of elevation before reaching the summit
Climbing amid colorful boulders
Another look back
Nearly at the summit. On the skyline are Turtlehead Peak, El Padre and La Madre Mountains.
Obligatory summit pose
We have no trouble retracing our steps
Back at the top of the ascent/descent gully
La Madre 1:24,000 Topo (2.5 mi, 4711 ft, 978 ft)
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