These two photos are of Ryan Nelson working the first free ascent of the Hallucinogen Wall, a VI 5.11 A5 put up in 1980 that went all-free at 5.13... plus some dry-tooling.
Working the upper sections headpoint-style in 2004, Jared Ogden and Nelson freed multiple pitches of 5.13 face climbing, with massive runouts above aid mank, often on dubious thin edges. On the 13 th pitch, a 50-foot bolt ladder, they were getting totally shut down. Over the winter, however, the Durango pair had climbed some extremely high-standard mixed routes in the icy caves of the San Juans, and a few beer-induced rants was probably all it took to connect this approach to a certain problematic pitch in the Black.
Nelson laid siege to the pitch 13 bolt-ladder with rock shoes and ice tools. One hook placement was so tenuous that he modified a beak piton and bolted it to a "secret weapon" third tool. He climbed the pitch with two other tools, pulling out the supersharp beak only for the crux edge.
In an effort to free the area's most famous aid climb, Ogden and Nelson put up the world's hardest "big-wall mixed head-point." But since "big-wall mixed headpoint" is not a recognized discipline, their ascent fell into obscurity.
The boys didn't seem to care. For them, it was the adventure of a lifetime.
TOP: This shot of Jared Ogden and two pictures on the previous page are all from our Air Guitar project on North Chasm View, a 16-pitch 5.12 that took us eight missions over four years. BOTTOM: Jared demonstrates the classic South Chasm View railing topout after the FA of Tague Your Time (V 5.12) in 2004. RIGHT: Sweating the details during a top-down recon.
xploring can feel safer than trying to repeat an existing route. Instead of rushing to make it all the way to the rim before dark, you take more time and can get into a Zen mindset. To squeeze quality pitches from the chaotic walls, we usually spend numerous days sorting out the passages.
We often take telephoto pictures from the opposite rim and carry the prints with us, and we can usually navigate more accurately and thoughtfully than when we follow a topo on a repeat. When we get shut down or reach an impasse where multiple bolts seem necessary, we'll rap off and go top-down to suss out the rest of the climb. Power drills aren't allowed in the Black, so you have to seek out very natural lines across blank areas. Here, I follow handholds on solid rock, hoping protection will appear, during the first of several days searching out the line of Cheap Hooker (5.11), on the Hooker Buttress in the Black's Arêtes sector.
Topher Donahue is a longtime contributor to Climbing and a freelance writer/photographer based in Nederland, Colorado. Visit alpinecreative.com to see more of his work.
Photo Annual 2010 • Climbing.com 63
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