I am starting to see a pattern in my adventure routines. They generally involve two very specific people coming up with wild and crazy schemes… and me not saying no. Why would I? It is way too entertaining; besides, how else am I going to learn? My day in the Black started no different. A random message from Rob seeing if I wanted to go for a crazy adventure to the Black Canyon next to Gunnison, Colorado.
“You in?”– Rob
“Yep, I’m in.”
“K, meet at my house at 4:00 in the morning.”– Rob
Crap… “Ok see you then.”
As 3:40 rolled around I figured I would just get up… there was no point in me trying to sleep the extra 20 minutes. I had heard of the Black. I had heard of a heinous approach, poison Ivy, loose rock, terrifying pegmatite bands that lace through the granite walls, and if you are unsuccessful a walk of shame. I will tell you the truth here and now… it is all true. I watched as the sun rose over the horizon and as I gazed outward I noticed that I didn’t really see any mountain walls close by; instead I saw a big hole in the ground. To be a fair a breath taking and intricate web of channels and gorges, but essentially a hole.
” We are going there?”
“Yep that is it… the Ol’ Black.” –Rob
“What happens if we have to bail?”
“We have to walk out…” — Rob
You gotta be kidding… “Ah.” What am I doing here!?
Committed to the cause we hiked down into the canyon. Loaded with an incredibly heavy pack I discovered that it is a tremendous nightmare to get to the bottom of the Black. There was mud, snow, loose rocks, and an awkward load that made it exhausting to get to the base of the climb. I realized soon that it was turning into another adventure with the King of Pain.
Already exhausted standing at the base of the daunting 1800 foot wall in front of me I looked over at Rob and he asked me a question that I had never heard before…
“Be honest you energy level… where you at?”
I want to say 90%… “About 60%… why?”
“Because I was going to see if there was a possibility for a new route, but that is not a good idea, we will just go up Black Cloud.”
Oh… thank god… “Ok.”
And with that we were on our adventure of climbing up the big wall. Rob led the first two pitches, then gave me the first crux pitch (a wonderful delicate and technical route). I managed to onsight it and watched as Rob maneuvered with the pitch with the pack. It was heavy. Soon We were plowing our way through the wall and got to an incredible ledge. I was beautiful up there watching the Gunnison River cut and flow it way through the gorge. I generally have problems with heights but I found this one tranquil and quite enjoyable.
As we navigated our way through the wall, I grew fatigued from the pack… and soon found that my entire style of climbing had to shift if I was going to survive this. I learned how to stand on my feet.
It took us about twelve hours of continuous climbing and scrambling to make it back to the car… with mini-adventures of me getting stuck in an off-width and scary descent down crumbling rock. Overall it was a great trip… and the learning curve is only going up. No walk of shame and better understanding of how to use my feet.