The Black Canyon
Beautiful. Striking. Intimidating. Beckoning. Steep. Deep. These are just a few of the words that come to mind when I think of The Black Canyon. At over 2700 feet at its deepest and just 40 feet across at its most narrow point, it holds some of Colorado’s longest and most challenging rock climbing. Tricky route finding and unplanned overnight bivies are par for the course. These climbs are not for the faint of heart, but if you are willing, they are worth every bit of effort and the fumbles.
This the route that Ken and I climbed on a gorgeous Saturday in September. It is graded at 5.9+ with an exposed and fun 100 foot traverse in the middle of the climb.. I thought the pitches were sustained and warranted the grade; there were no ‘gimme’ pitches aside from the scrambles at the beginning and end. After 7 pitches and 1500 feet of elevation gain, we were on top of the buttress; exhausted but all smiles.
Cheesy selfie for documentation only
For interested parties:
Here are some photos I took of the canyon while climbing.
I spent Thanksgiving weekend in Indian Creek with a group of about ten climbing and/or staying warm. Temps never got above the low 40’s. It was overcast with snow on the ground and brief flurries throughout the weekend. We had fantastic meals all three nights, including, yes, turkey on Thursday! Nobody climbed hard because of the weather, but we still enjoyed a few cracks in the 5.10 range. I was surprised at how many climbers were there despite the cold. One day we spent hiking in Canyonlands national park. Love that place. Can’t wait until rock climbing season is back. But there’s plenty to do until then.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to go climbing in Indian Creek. If you are a climber, you probably know it as the mecca of crack climbing in the U.S. I jumped at the chance. I left Friday night for a short 2.5 hour drive into the desert. I was meeting two people there, one friend and one soon to be friend. My arrival was much later than they had expected. Three message boards later (there is no cell phone service there so there are literal message boards where you can leave notes for people) and I had still not found them. I decided to call it a night and find them in the morning. It turns out I had parked just a few spots away from them. We had a casual start to the day: breakfast, packing our backpacks, and a bit of lounging as the sun warmed us up.
The climbing there is a bit stout for the inexperienced crack climber, but well worth a trip nonetheless. We climbed three routes and were ready to call it a day. It was quite busy as it is peak season now and the sport of climbing has been increasing in popularity greatly over the past decade or more. Our campsite was picturesque as we prepared for the evening meal and campfire. The sky was clear, typical, as we ate and sat by the fire. Most nights the sky is filled with stars and the milky way is commonly seen here.
The next day we did not climb, but hiked up to a wall which had some indian ruins nearby. I needed the rest as much as I wanted to climb. I’ve found that my body is still adjusting to the elevation and my physically demanding job. I was happy to be there and take in the scenery. After, we headed to Moab for some grub. The place I had in mind to eat was not open, so we settled for a burger/beer joint that hit the spot. Late Sunday afternoon I said goodbye and headed back. It was awesome to reconnect with a friend from MI and meet a new one who lives here in CO.
I’ve been here since September 21. That’s not even three weeks, but it feels like longer. I spent the first few days cruising craigslist for a job and a place to stay. The work came only four days after I arrived. I am working with a local contractor who does many different building projects, but a significant part of his work is installing snow melt systems on roofs. We’ve been working at Durango Mountain Resort, aka Purgatory, the local ski resort, which has provided the most beautiful scenery in the mountains at 8k ft. above sea level just 25 miles north of town. Besides the weekend I spent in Phoenix at my cousin’s wedding, I have spent the nights either camping in the San Juan National Forest or in my car. The housing situation here is tough. Rent is more than I am used to, and I have a feeling there are more people looking for a place to stay than there are open rentals. The weather has been sunny with highs in the 60’s to 70 with the exception of a few stormy days. Some highlights so far have been seeing a mountain lion less than half a mile from where I sleep on a mountain, having a black bear visit us for lunch on the jobsite, and watching the snow fall outside as I am writing this. The trees have turned color, and the air is getting crisp. So far, I am loving it here.