Firstly, how good is the Black Canyon? The deserted campground at the North Rim is at the top of so much good climbing. You finish an epic climb and stumble into camp.
I'd heard that the heat this time of year is overwhelming. And if that doesn't get you, the thunderstorms, ticks and poison ivy will. Don't go to the Black!
Mike arrived from SLC in the middle of an evening monsoonal deluge. We drank beers and bantered about routes. He was pretty well decided that Journey Home was the ticket. I was interested in lots of different options. When I finally acquiesced, he quickly added, "You get to lead the first pitch."
This time I managed to leave my comfortable sleeping bag and the shelter of my tent at 4:42 am. We were the only climbers for the whole day from the North Rim of the Black Canyon. We stumbled and did the rappels down Cruise Gully until we spotted Ament's Chimney and the massive dihedral of Kachina Wings. Then it was time for some Black Canyon "third class."
Several hundred feet of third class, follow an ample ledge system and there's the start of Journey Home. It's the first pitch of the route and has a reputation as 5.9R. It could get to somebody. More than a thousand feet and two rappels down a gully, hundreds of feet off the deck, then to start one climbs on a boulder and makes some committing face moves to a flake that's way out there. From there, maybe 20 to 25 feet off the deck, it's another 30 feet or so of face moves until the next really good protection.
But the truth is, the moves are fairly positive. I could at least see features and places ahead where the gear would go. So away we go.
Near the end of the runout section, good climbing. Yeah!
This route is special. The heart of it is five long pitches (all 35-55 m as we climbed them) where almost every single move is 9 or 9+.
Mike leads the "crux move" of the route.
Mike at the top of a stellar 55 m pitch that included plenty of fingers, hands, stemming and layback. I lost my shit handling his 70 m rope at the belay. I hate 70 m ropes.
Mike leads the "crux pitch" of the route. So good, so sustained.
I prepare to lead the "crux offwidth."
Some easy choss to the ledge, the North Chasm Scenic Loop, the campground and cold beers.
THANKS DR LAYTON!
Journey Home, Black Canyon of the Gunnison
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