American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Colorado, Black Canyon of the Gunnison

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1984

Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Many new free climbs have been made in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Most are on a slightly smaller scale than other recent free climbs, but these newer climbs are just as or more desirable since they can easily be done in one day from the canyon rim without the usual fear of a forced bivouac. On North Chasm View wall, both crack systems just to the left of the popular Leisure Climb have now been done. Musical Partners (III, 5.9), the left-hand of these three cracks, was first climbed by Paul Scannell and me and features a poorly protected bomb-bay chimney on the crux. All’s Well That Ends Well (III, 5.11–) is a completely different story and is highly recommended. Lauren Husted and I made the first ascent of the central crack system when it was slightly damp and used several points of aid. These were eliminated a month later by Chester Dreiman and me, and the route was soon repeated by Peter Gallagher and Robert Warren, who confirmed its quality. Down in SOB Gully, Escape Artist (III, 5.9+ or 5.11) has received a multitude of repeats, with most of the parties wisely avoiding the original crux, a strenuous lightning bolt crack up a 95° wall. Next to the right, Dreiman and I made an excellent companion route, Comic Relief (III, 5.10–), which sports one of the best 5.9 finger-and-hand cracks and merges with its neighbor after six leads. Just right of Russian Arête, Bob Robertson and Art Wiggins established a new eight-pitch route, well protected and on good rock, Ghost Arête (III, 5.10). Just upstream from Newberry’s Slabs, Greg Grant and I discovered a new 13-pitch route up a previously unclimbed buttress. We named it Quest for Fire (IV, 5.11–) in light of our miserably cold bivouac atop the tenth pitch and our futile, stone-age efforts to start a fire to stay warm. Besides underestimating the length of the route, we forgot to pack any matches! Several noteworthy repeats were also done. Randy Leavitt and Rob Slater did the second free ascent of Stratosfear (VI, 5.11), the free ascent of the Forrest-Walker route on the Painted Wall. Earl Wiggins and Bob Rotert bagged the second ascent of the Checkerboard Wall, which they termed a “route of the future,” and later on Wiggins and Mike O’Donald made their own futuristic contribution, the 2-in-l combination, racing up two Grade V routes on North Chasm Wall, the Goss-Logan (V, 5.11) and the Scenic Cruise (V, 5.10+) in one extremely long and tiring day! Encountering over 3500 feet of arduous free climbing, the pair completed the two climbs by leading on a single 300-foot 9mm rope to save as much time as possible.

Edward Webster

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