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North America, United States, Colorado, Mount Evans, Black Wall

Mount Evans, Black Wall. From the Chicago Lakes Overlook, near Summit Lake, on the Mount Evans Highway, it is possible to see a sheer 700-foot white-granite wall, the rim of which is just over 13,000 feet. Until mid-summer, the wall is often wet, blackened by tundra melt-water dripping through cracks or off the lips of the summit roofs. Steeper than the Longs Peak Diamond, the Black Wall is so overhung that climbers are usually protected from bad weather. Being only forty miles from Denver and its huge competent climbing community, my partners and I conspired to wait until we had painstakingly rounded up all the good lines. This was probably unnecessary since hard crack-climbing and nail-ups have fallen out of vogue and no one in Colorado is interested in new routes unless they can be rappel-bolted. Good Evans (III, 5.10 + , 5 pitches) was the first route completed through the summit roofs and was climbed by Eric Winkleman and me in 1983. This is the most pleasant route and follows a fingertips- to hand-sized crack system just left of the obvious off-width on the left side of the wall. The next summer, Dan Hare and Jeff Lowe climbed the sustained and classic 300-foot off-width, Road Warrior (III, 5.10+ to 5.11, 5 pitches), which merges with the summit-roof pitch on Good Evans. Aid routes have been done more recently and share the special quality of commitment, since it is almost impossible to back off from their hardest pitches, always found high up. The Undertow (IV, 5.10, A4, 5 pitches) climbs a clean roof-and-corner system just left of the Rusty Dagger dihedral. The crux involves making a string of upside-down rurps stick into the summit roof while looking at a potential zipper into the wall of a dihedral. Kirk Miller and I climbed this route in one day in 1985, assuming that Bob Culp, Layton Kor or Bill Forrest must have done the great central lines during Colorado’s Golden Age. After a year, we realized that the direct lines up the highest and most overhanging part of the Black Wall were still unclimbed. As soon as the wall dried in 1987, we began fixing ropes up the best line on the wall. Following the method of “climb high, sleep low,” we spent our bivouacs at home and worked on the route during the day. Parallel Universe (V, 5. 10r, A4, 6 pitches) was the first time Noel Childs, Kirk Miller and I had ever bagged the best line on a major cliff. Later that same summer, Peter Prandoni and I ascended the longest free line, Coffee Achievers (IV, 5.10 + ), climbing the left-leaning cracks on the buttress right of Parallel Universe. In September 1987, Kirk Miller and Gerry Rock climbed the last and most overhanging route to be done on the wall to date, Rusty Dagger (V, 5.9, A3, 6 pitches), named after the color of the dihedral that makes up the route.

Ken Trout, Unaffiliated