(furthest left in the photo)
The long routes and remote settings of the Black Canyon makes the place feel like alpine climbing; there are many adventures waiting for the intrepid here. I teamed up with Jim Turner, a Black climber for my first time last week.
After a casual mid-day alpine start we got it together and hiked down the SOB gully to climb Comic Relief (III 5.10 300m), a classic moderate offering. I was feeling insecure on the balancy, weird crack crux after my spring in the Creek, but as the climbing continued I began to relax and ease into the unique rock and movements of the Canyon.
White-throated Swifts swooped within inches as I sat on the belay ledges, contemplating the vast, deep canyon walls swirled with Pegmatite and dark Gneiss. The snow-fed river rages on a thousand feet below; its amazing to consider the pre-dam (1937) runoff levels reaching 6 times the fury! ( at 6000 cfs)
The next morning showed clear skies as we started down the Cruise Gully with the mega-classic Scenic Cruise (V 5.10+ 600m) on the agenda. As it was Jim's third time on the route, I recieved a quick debrief of the upcoming pitch before setting out on my leads, super handy! Just as the sun began to bake our brains at 10am, the clouds rolled in to save the day! The reality of over a thousand feet of exposure set in as I took the sharp end high on the route's big traverse pitch; a techy face sequence was cause for pause, thankfully the original bolt has been replaced by a fatty Metolious!! We topped the Canyon rim around 5pm for a time of 9 hours on this beautiful route. The climbing on the Scenic Cruise is always exciting for leader and the follower, every pitch is classic, and the movement very cerebral with great cracks and wild edging.
The Black Canyon has a powerful allure and a history of training some of America's best climbers. In the late 70's Earl Wiggins soloed the second ascent of The Scenic Cruise in 90 mintues with no chalkbag!!