For generations, the book survived in a metal box on California's rooftop — a small khaki-colored volume whose pages held a story of ephemeral encounters with an enduring place.
The summit register on 13,765-foot Black Kaweah in the High Sierra, placed there in 1924 by a group of outdoor adventurers, offered a window onto California's rich mountaineering history.
The signatures of pioneering alpinists from the 1920s and '30s such as Norman Clyde, Francis Farquhar, Jules Eichorn and Glen Dawson evoked a time when the Sierra was lightly trampled by a small fraternity of explorers who were unwittingly creating a sport.
The name of Walter Starr Jr., written in his own blood and dated July 10, 1929, attested to the physical and mental effort it takes to scale one of the Sierra's most remote and challenging peaks.
So challenging that after nearly 90 years, the Black Kaweah register, its spine held together with duct tape, was only half full.
"Wonderful day, and a dandy climb!!" wrote a member of a party led by Clyde, considered the most famous of all Sierra mountaineers.
The news is that these historic registers are disappearing, and nobody knows why. Can I express some sadness about this? Not only is it sad because the registers are irreplaceable, but it's also kind of incredible, because it's so difficult to climb peaks like Black Kaweah. You would think that mountain climbers would respect the skill of the pioneers who went first, and not steal their legacy.
Here's a picture of Black Kaweah, one of the most intimidating Sierra peaks I've ever seen. Climbing Whitney is a breeze compared to this pup.
Pic by Pete Yamagata