After a late-week decision to head to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison to take advantage of Daniel's return from school for the summer and a relatively cool forecast for the canyon, Daniel and I arrived at the north rim at 10pm to find no other climbers signed up for the following day. Nice!
We caught a few hours of sleep and started the descent down the Cruise Gully at 4:30am. Daniel is sporting the new Petzl Unicorn 200 bulb LED headlamp. It's all the rage in California and puts out a whopping 6400 lumens.
Some hiking, scrambling and two fixed-rope rappels got us down the Cruise Gully and to the base of the climb by 5:25am
Precarious rope-flaking and preparation in a field of poison ivy. Be vuuurrrry careful....
We started climbing around 5:45am and I linked the first two pitches. This is looking down the big corner on the second pitch
A butt shot of Daniel on the third pitch with the route above. The original Cruise route stays on the left up the OW cracks. Scenic Cruise takes the cracks to the right and up the center for three pitches and then connects back with the crack system of the Cruise
First sunlight of the day hits the south rim. We were climbing on the north rim and wanted an early start to avoid a lot of climbing in the sun's heat. It turned out to not be too warm and was in fact hotter on this wall last September when Daniel and I were there to climb a route called Journey Home.
Looking down the fourth pitch with the river below. The route ascends about 1,700 feet on the North Chasm View Wall. The rock is some of the oldest exposed rock on earth at roughly 2 billion years old.
Another view down the fourth pitch
Daniel on lead of the first 5.10 crux pitch. Where he's at in this photo the crack pinches down to finger size and is very difficult. He sent it in fine style. I did not but enjoyed the crack higher up where it gets closer to hand size.
The sixth pitch is a traversing pitch through a band of Pegmatite--course feldspar, mica and quartz. It can be tricky climbing through these bands as the rock is less prone to offering protection placements, can be crumbly and slick.
The sun hit us on the wall at the top of the fifth pitch but the terrain in the bottom of the canyon remained dark making for some nice, dramatic lighting
Daniel sets off on the second 5.10 crux pitch (seventh pitch). Strenous and steeper than the first but with bigger holds. I found the first 5.10 pitch to be more difficult but enjoyed the athletic type moves on this pitch quiet a bit
Again, Daniel sent the pitch in fine style
Big stemming up high on the seventh pitch
The Black Canyon is a very wild and scenic place
Looking over at the south rim (with tourists on the rim view point and two climbers down below them at the Two Boulder Bivy
Daniel comes up the eighth pitch. Now with the crux pitches below us we settle into a rhythm and enjoy challenging and engaging climbing for another five pitches. At times I would find myself nearly hypnotized by the currents and sounds of the river below. The dull roar of the river is a constant white noise.
Heading up the ninth pitch. The pitch involved climbing behing the large flake above and chimneying up between it and the main wall.
Meanwhile, as Daniel climbed, I enjoyed a spacious and comfortable belay ledge with quite the great view.
There are those two climbers monkeying around on the Two Boulder Bivy half way down the south rim wall. They'd later rappel down further to climb up the lower pitches of route called Astro Dog.
Looking at the south rim from the belay. Not pictured, but nearby, the Painted Wall is the highest cliff in Colorado. From river to rim it stands 2250 feet (685 meters), and is 1000 feet (304 meters) taller than the Empire State Building.
The tenth pitch involved a wildly exposed 5.7 traverse on a small ledge to a 5.9 move through a short bit of slabby rock protected by bolts. Here, Daniel comes around from the traverse to the 5.9 area
Hard not to keep looking around and down into this amazing canyon
Daniel topping out of pitch 12. From here, we had one more long 5.8 pitch and then a short bit of scrambling up to the rim and, as the guidebook says, cold beer (for me; cold Vitamin water drinks for Daniel.)
At the rim! There were loads of cacti and they were all flowering nicely
The route tops out right near a view point fence and rail with only a few minute walk back to our campsite. We topped out at 3:45pm making for a 10 hour climb and 11 hour camp to camp. Our friends Claudia and Hagen were climbing another route in the canyon that day and would end up back at camp only about 20 minutes after us. Great timing. The route was a phenomenal experience on one of Colorado's biggest walls. A true joy for climbing.