The season kicked off in the fall with a lot of craging in Taylor Canyon. This area is located only about a half hour north of Gunnison and is often overlooked. Taylor is popular with the locals and has a pretty traditional ethic when it comes to putting up new routes. The name of the game is ground up and if a bolt must be placed it is with a hand drill on lead. I had the pleasure of experiencing this on a route called Cigarette which gets a stiff 5.11. The route was bolted on lead and is a tad sporty between the bolts, which I got to experience firsthand as I whipped through the air onto and old spinning SMC hanger. The guys and gals who put up routes in Taylor were the definition of hardmen/women. Many of the same first ascentionists were responsible for the development of new routes in the Black as well as many first free ascents.
In late October I got a call from my good friend Morgan Truelove. He lives up in Fort Collins and said he had heard some rumors of early season ice on Pikes Peak above Colorado Springs. I caught a ride with a friend to Woodland Park and a few hours later Morgan picked me up in his famous GMC Safari van. We crashed in the van that night and woke early in the morning ready to hike to a route called Total Abandon.
We began driving up the road to the park entrance early and realized that the tourist park people do not open the road until 9am. Not a very good time to start hiking to a fairly serious mixed route in the alpine. When we finally paid our entrance fee and got into the park we were stopped at the second gate to the upper mountain by a ranger who told us that the road was too icy and dangerous to continue up. We parked the van and discussed our options. We looked towards the mountain and saw a snow covered wall maybe 4 pitches high looming above. "Want to try that?" I said half scared and half stoked. Morgan agreed and soon we were on foot heading towards the wall.
Upon arrival at the base of the wall we realized that we would be in the shade for the rest of the day. "This is going to be cold." I thought to myself. We compiled a rack of 4 or 5 knifeblades, a set of cams including TCU's and a set of stoppers. Morgan offered to lead the first pitch, I didn't argue. Before he started we looked up at the wall, no ice to be seen. Morgan climbed up a moderate snow ramp to a rock ramp with twin cracks. He made quick work of the ramp and hooked up into a wide chimney system. It looked like Morgan was getting good hooks and solid gear. The top out onto a ledge where Morgan hoped to belay was the crux. Thrutching induced for a few scary minutes but a good hook was found and soon I was following the pitch. When I arrived at the belay it consisted of a solid knifeblade, a half driven one and a micro nut. "Sorry, there was nothing else." Morgan said, trying to be light on the anchor.
I grabbed the rack and started up the next pitch. As I began climbing I discovered that this pitch was going to be a little dirtier than the first. I hammered in a few pins, some good, some not so much. The pitch weaved around many features and small ledges. I finally found a solid crack system to follow and got in a few solid TCU's. I followed this crack for quite some time; there was good hooking and the occasional swing into frozen moss. Soon I was at a ledge where I built and anchor. Morgan informed me that it was now 2pm, the park closed in two hours. We had two raps and a short hike back to the car and a half hour drive to the gate. Time to bail.
I rapped off my anchor of two knife blades back to Morgan where we pulled the stopper out of his anchor, equalized the pins with a runner and rapped to our packs. Hopefully the final pitches can be added this coming season; the first two seem to go in the M5/6 area. More to come soon as the season in the Black Canyon begins.