Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tague yer Dog

Just returned from a quick two day jaunt to the Black Canyon, Colorado's biggest and raddest climbing venue. I've only been out to the REAL big ditch a few times, but every time I'm inspired to go back as soon as possible.

On this trip, I was joined by friends Josh, Blake, and Rob. Monday morning, waking at a fantastic bivy spot just outside the park entrance, we fortified our constitutions with plenty of coffee, bacon, and eggs. A short drive to the canyon rim, and an even shorter walk, brought us to the brink.

The brink of the 2000' South Chasm View wall!

THE BLACK CANYON. Credit: NPS/Lisa Lynch

While Blake and Rob rapped in to go for a one day mission on "The Flakes", Josh and I packed a haulbag and dragged our pig down into the canyon. We rapped with the haulbag down to the plush "Two Boulder Bivy", and then continued down towards the river to the start of "Tague Yer Time"

Blake leading on P2 of "The Flakes" (shared with AstroDog) with Rob belaying.

A relatively new addition to the canyon, TYT is touted as one of the best routes in the Black, Colorado, or even the country! The FA party spent a fair amount of time cleaning and installing bolts where needed, and the work shows!

A topo of "Tague yer Time". Credit: Chris Kalous

Josh started up the 5.11 first pitch, casually onsighting the mixed bolt and gear lead. I took the second pitch, a stellar open corner, slightly under vertical. Though the crack itself was mostly sub-tips, both walls were highly textured, and enough pods appeared to provide adequate holds and pro. After onsighting through what I though must have been the crux, I just kept climbing, now determined not to fall. No obvious spot to stop and belay presented itself, and I continued up past many insecure mini-cruxes, becoming more and more desperate to end the pitch.

Finally reaching a stance, I consulted the topo and realized that I had climbed through pitches two and three, and halfway through pitch four, linking one 65m mega pitch. It was a super time-consuming lead, and I'd placed all but four pieces of the rack, which thankfully went in to build a belay.

Josh, in pants reminiscent of the 11th Hussars, makes a thin corner switch on p4.

A member of the British 11th Hussars, "The Cherry Pickers"

Josh took the next lead, with some classy stemming, corner switching, arete slapping goodness. Another tough pitch onsighted, and our send-train was officially rolling. A few more easy pitches brought us to a final 5.11 corner just below our bivy ledge, and I enjoyed the lead of the steep black dihedral with the growing desire for a cold can of Dale's Pale Ale.

We get to the ledge, and what do we find?! Four ice-cold cold-ones, just a-setting thar awaytin fer us!
(we had rapped it in, with a frozen two liter bottle to keep everything frosty)

Oh the advantages of top-down hauling! We had rapping in not only with beer, but way more food than we could possibly consume (and still have any chance of sending the next day). Knowing that we had to carry out whatever we didn't eat, we did manage to down the smoked salmon with pesto pasta, and loaded mashed potatoes, but didn't quite get to Bengali Lentils.

Untitled from Scott Bennett on Vimeo.

A short, and mostly lame, video shot at the two Boulder Bivy (it turns right side up in a second)

Our evening entertainment was rounded out by watching a party on "Stoned Oven", just across the canyon. What a unique experience, to be bivying on a bigwall, and have a mirror image big wall not even a quarter mile away! They had gotten an early start, but the famously burly route was taking it's toll and we had fun speculating on their mindset. We could hear faint belay commands shouted back and forth, and it was hard not to imagine a tinge of desperation or frustration as the sun set and many pitches of hard climbing still loomed between them and the rim. We watched as headlamps lit up, and progress slowed. We exchanged drawn out coyote howls as the moon rose above the canyon rim. We evened out our de-lux bivy site with ropes and haul bag as they struggled through "The Womb Fight". I woke briefly in the middle of the night to see their lights just a pitch below the rim... that was some quality entertainment.

Unknown party on Stoned Oven, late in the day.

Our run of good luck ended the next morning, though. We had planned to climb the remaining six pitches of TYT, and even started up the first pitch off the bivy ledge (an intimidating 5.12 corner). But the splitter weather was gone, and snow flurries spun through the air and gave the canyon a muted, almost claustrophobic feel. It didn't take much to convince up to bail, and the thought of mandatory hard face climbing on wet rock was not appetizing.

Josh looking up at the 8th pitch of TYT.

We bailed back to the bivy ledge, and started up our escape route, "Astro Dog". Though still a serious route, I had done the Dog last fall, and was confident that we could finish rain or shine. Hours of enjoyable 5.10 and 5.11 cracks, and some less than enjoyable hauling, brought us to the canyon rim and back to the boring horizontal world.

I will be back, though, as soon as can be arranged, to finish "Tague yer Time", and will report back here!