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North America, United States, Colorado, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Sistine Reality

Sistine Reality. The fourth lead was mine: the first and most prominent roof. Jonny Copp handed me the rack, raised his eyebrows, and wished me luck. As I entered the hollowed chamber beneath it, the sky and ground disappeared. I no longer could tell which way was up, only out. I was inside an enclosed box a few hundred feet above the ivy-choked gully. I reached for the first jam and it was solid, deep hands. Perfect. Twelve feet later, when I pulled the lip, I trembled and fumbled with every piece of gear that I wedged into the scaly, bone-white rock. This was only my second time on the intimidating pegmatite of the Black My confidence grew as I continued on the flaring thin-hands corner above, particles of granola-like rock crunching beneath my rubber soles I built an anchor and glanced over my shoulder to the inner canyon The sky had turned black, the wind roared, and an ominous rumble sounded on the horizon Jonny arrived, and we quickly escaped, sprinting to the car amid thunder and laughter

Jonny took off for Alaska, and I headed home to Missouri, but we promised to return at our next opportunity This chance didn’t happen until two years later, in April 2006, although the Gothic was often on my mind The scrappy riverside limestone in my home state offered perfect training

Four pitches up at the belay, white dust collected in my lap I pretended not to notice the incoming snow; maybe we could sneak by without the weather knowing we were there We carried on I followed the fifth pitch admiring various sections of off width, perfect hands, a clean slab, and eventually a broken roof The stone looked as though it had been burning in a fire for the past hundred years, scalloped and fire red The crux pitches beneath us, we sped up the remaining 700' of highly featured rock, connecting clean faces, deep cracks, and sharp dihedrals The white stuff came and went, and we summited in a heavenly orange and violet sunset

Our route begins a few hundred yards left of Kor’s Route on the west face of Gothic Pillar Approach by passing Exclamation Point, passing two gullies, and descending the third Where it cliffs out, rap or traverse left to the next gully, descend it for 20 minutes, pass beneath a huge chockstone and continue to a large white boulder on the left The route starts here, with the fourth pitch roof crack visible above

On our initial attempt, I’d just returned from Rome, where I’d seen Michelangelo’s Sis- tine Chapel painting Inspired by the ceilings on the route, we titled our own masterpiece Sistine Reality (IV 511+, no bolts, no pins, no lassoes, no big whoop)

Jeremy Collins, Kansas City, Missouri, AAC