Friday April 11, 2014
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison River, protected as a national park, is one of the deepest and narrowest gorges in the United States. It is also one of America's premier adventure climbing areas and the next couple of months--April and May--are the best times to go rockaneering in the BC.
I stopped at the North Rim of the Black Canyon yesterday on my way back to Colorado Springs from a couple days of climbing in the desert near Moab. The snow has melted off all the major cliffs, including North Chasm View and the Painted Wall, in the canyon below the North Rim although a few small drifts remain on trails and the dirt road is muddy in a couple spots. The weather, however, was perfect for climbing with a warm sun and light breezes.
If you want to climb at the Black Canyon, make your plan now to head there before the summer heat arrives. Read the article Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Climbing for lots of beta on climbing at the Black as well as information on access, camping, suggested cliffs and routes, and park climbing regulations. I'm heading down in a couple weeks to do Escape Artist...hope to see you there!
Photograph above: Looking into the dark depths of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison from the North Rim. Photograph © Stewart M. Green
Tuesday April 8, 2014
In early March, an unknown person or persons went to Red Rock Canyon Open Space, a Colorado Springs' city park, and stole over 25 bolt hangers and anchor material including Fixe ring anchors and forged chain from a dozen routes. The thief obviously had some climbing skills and equipment since many of the hangers were taken high on routes and would be inaccessible except by rappelling down from the cliff-top.
I mean, who does that? What climber goes to a public climbing area and steals bolt hangers from existing routes? It is very discouraging that some lowlife climbers would feel the need to steal the fixed protection used by thousands of climbers on over 100 routes since the park opened in 2004.
The good news is that there are more good people out there than evil hanger-stealing thugs. Within a couple weeks of the thievery, an unknown climber replaced about half of the missing hardware with new hangers, undoubtedly bought with their own hard-earned cash. I give a hearty shout-out and thank you to that unknown climber for stepping forward and doing a good deed.
Last week Collin Powers with the Pikes Peak Group of the Colorado Mountain Club also messaged me that the club was willing to buy the remainder of the replacement gear to restore the routes to their original condition. Collin bought a dozen Metolius bolt hangers from the Mountain Chalet and painted them to match the color of the sandstone at Red Rock Canyon.
A couple days ago, Collin and I went over to Red Rocks on a windy morning and reinstalled ten of the hangers on three routes at the Whale's Tail. Yesterday we purchased eight one-foot lengths of forged 3/8-inch chain for four sets to reinstall on missing anchors. Thank you Collin and the Colorado Mountain Club for also helping restore these popular climbing routes so both new and experienced climbers can once safely enjoy this marvelous local climbing area.
Photograph above: One of the replacement bolt hangers on "Pockets of Plenty" at Red Rock Canyon Open Space park. Photograph © Stewart M. Green
Friday April 4, 2014
I've been following Alex Honnold and Cedar Wright as they bicycle around the Colorado Plateau on what they call Sufferfest2. Besides biking a lot of miles over the past two weeks, the pair has, as of April 2, climbed 29 desert towers, including classics like Castleton Tower, Ancient Art, Standing Rock, and Moses. They plan to work their way south from Moab to climb more towers, finally ending on the Navajo Reservation and climbing the sacred mountain Shiprock in northwestern New Mexico on April 9 and finishing at Monument Valley in Arizona a few days later.
The purpose of Sufferfest2 though is not just to do a lot of climbing, have a lot of fun, and suffer a lot along the way, but also to make a difference in the lives of many people who live on the vast Navajo Nation in the Four Corners region.
Cedar explains their purpose on his Facebook page:
"The #sufferfest2 is a tongue and cheek name for our adventure, and obviously this elective suffering we are fortunate to enjoy, is not the real suffering endured by millions of people living in unrest, poverty or oppression. While we aren't going to change the world, @alexhonnold and I are hoping to make a small positive difference close to home by helping to support a solar installation project on the Navajo Nation where we will be finishing our Journey and where over 18,000 people live without electricity."
Alex's Honnold Foundation has partnered up with Elephant Energy to bring not only awareness but also money to install solar lights in schools and Navajo homes in off-the-grid communities, particularly in the Kayenta, Arizona, region. As Alex posted on his Facebook page: "I'm really psyched to be a part of something that can actually improve the quality of peoples' lives."
Go to the Honnold Foundation's webpage to learn more about their quest to bring solar light to the Navajo Reservation and to make a donation to make a difference.
Find out more about Sufferfest2 and Alex and Cedar's climbing and biking adventures by using #sufferfest2 for updates and cool photos.
Photographs: (top) Alex Honnold on the summit gargoyle of Lighthouse Tower near Moab. (bottom) Alex rides the bike along the White Rim past Monument Basin in Canyonlands National Park. Photographs courtesy Cedar Wright.
Saturday March 29, 2014
Jim DiNapoli, my friend and occasional climbing partner, died yesterday, March 28, in the morning after battling pancreatic cancer for the past few months. Jim, a 59-year-old emergency room doctor, was a guy who loved rock climbing and standing on mountain summits.
When he got his cancer diagnosis on December 20, Jim was working on becoming one of the select few to climb Colorado's Fourteeners in calendar winter, a list which includes 58 winter peaks rather than the customary 54 or 55 on the summer list. Jim had already climbed 43 of them and thought he would take a couple winters to complete the rest.
A couple weeks ago when I was visiting Jim at the hospice, he said, "I had plans climb the four peaks in Chicago Basin--Sunlight, Windom, Eolus, and North Eolous--the week after Christmas but after the doc gave me the diagnosis, he thought I should try chemotherapy and some other experimental stuff. I agreed too that I needed to give it a shot, but now I think I should have gone on that climbing trip."
I wrote about Jim DiNapoli on March 8 in my blog post Climber Makes Legacy Bequest to Benefit Garden of the Gods and his generous donation to help maintain climbing routes at the Garden of the Gods, one of his favorite climbing areas, as well as other cliffs and areas around Colorado Springs.
That financial gift is just how Jim was as a person, always ready to take a newbie climbing or dispense whatever advice was helpful for winter mountaineering or the beta for a tough climbing move. I promised Jim the other week that I would do my best to make sure that his gift to our local climbing community would be his legacy.
I traded texts with Jim DiNapoli the past couple weeks while I was in southern Arizona and he was in the hospice at Penrose Hospital. He told me he was "fine" and that he was at peace. He didn't want any more visitors though, so I respected his wish for privacy.
A lot of Jim's friends, acquaintances, and climbing buddies have been posting on 14ers.com about their adventures with Jim, whose user name on 14ers.com is "DancesatMoonrise." One of the best is by climber and Falcon Guide author Susan Joy Paul, who wrote:
"He was a passionate, and a compassionate, being, and his passions weren't always in line with everyone else's.... But if you're going to go through life worried about what other people think, or who you're going to piss off, you might as well just give up. Jim lived his life his way, and the funny thing is, he really did care what other people thought, regardless. He cared deeply about others."
Susan also noted what she wrote in a card she gave Jim when she visited him at the hospital: "You were bigger than life, Jim. You were faster, and smarter, and more daring that most of us. And maybe some of us were just a little bit jealous.
Rest in peace Jim, after the ordeal of the past few months. We'll always remember your passion and exuberance for all places vertical and we'll do our best to live life fully and in the present.
Photograph above: Jim DiNapoli on the summit of Kit Carson Mountain after a winter ascent. Photograph courtesy Jim DiNapoli Collection.