AAC Publications - http://publications.americanalpineclub.org

North America, United States, Colorado, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, South Chasm View Wall, The Black Hole

South Chasm View Wall, The Black Hole. After years of longing gazes and idle dreaming, Jonathan Copp and I found ourselves looking up with apprehension at the vast leaning dihedral of The Black Hole (ca 2,000' V+ 5.12b). A wide crack, at first green with slime, continued up to a large roof about 400 feet up. This feature, which looms over the lush meadow at the base of the South Chasm View Wall, had repelled attempts by a number of suitors, earning the title The Janitor’s Victim’s Corner. We had obtained this worrying information, along with a crucial Big Bro, from Jeff Achey over breakfast an hour earlier.

Things started badly. Fifteen feet off the deck I was pumped silly and about to call it a day. However, a more direct approach—taking the slime head on—paid off, and I soon found myself, coated in green paste, belaying off the fixed hex that marked the high point of earlier attempts. The next two pitches of offwidth were dirty but dry. This short day climaxed in a roof crack demanding wide hands, wide stems, and our remaining drive. We fixed our 60-meter lines end-to-end from a small ledge above the roof and just made it down to the slabs above the meadow. We recrossed the river and hiked back up to the north rim for a brew and some sleep.

On the following morning, May 27, we were back at our high point. The pitches from here to the rim were a huge contrast to the horrors below. No wideness, just perfect clean rock, allowed us to run out rope-stretching pitches. One notable pitch had us contemplating retreat, but we got lucky. An overhanging flared seam, more akin to a pitch on the Squamish Chief than in the Black, succumbed to an improbable lieback sequence and became the second crux of the route. The hard climbing ended at the upper meadow, where we traversed left to join the last pitches of Astrodog. Thanks to Ralph Burns for saving our arses and driving us back to the North Rim.

We abandoned the bolt kit with our packs at the bottom of the route, through laziness rather than ethics, and got lucky. However, if you’re planning on trying one of the other unclimbed lines in the vicinity, you’ll probably be psyched to bring the kit along.

Andy Donson, ex-pat United Kingdom