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Shirley topping out on pitch 3 of Black Elk (Aug. 2012).
We rarely dive into the cesspool of climbing-related introspection (we’re shallow) – we climb because we don’t play golf. Those moments early in the morning before a big, intimidating route are the exception. The alarm goes off after a sleepless night in the tent and I know Shirley is thinking the same thing: why do we do this shit? Why don’t we just f…ing play golf? We stumble out of the tent and are scrambling the approach ramp 30 minutes later. We do a bonus pitch as the going gets more exposed before the start of the route proper. Pitch 1 is indeed the only easy one of the day (5.7-5.8) then, per mountainproject comments, it’s game on. A steep start to the first 5.10 dihedral pitch and easier going up higher lead to a semi-hanging belay. Pitch three (our four) is friendlier esp. for those with large mitts and leads to a nice comfy ledge. Crux pitch starts as fun thin hands but quickly makes its mark as it opens up to #3.5-#4 Camalot. Somebody has to take… a few times in fact before arriving at the next hanging belay.
Starting up the crux pitch (#4) of Black Elk (Aug. 2012).
Next pitch is also excellent – a better than it looks (from belay) crack leading to a switch over to a neighboring crack. I end the pitch not on a large ledge as the book would suggest but a small, sloping ramp. Another semi-hanging belay. Where did that easier next pitch go? We did not find it. Instead some thin face moves over a bulge lead to a delicate foot traverse right to a trickier than it looks and grass-filled crack. Not 5.9. This puts us on a huge ledge under the even huge-r chockstone. Per internets beta, we take the right exit from under the chockstone. Though the crack is intermittently wide, there are enough features around to keep things moderate. I run the 70 meter lines to their end but we’re still not quite in scrambling terrain. Another long (low 5th) pitch puts us in the approach shoe land. We start the hike down and I even spot the boulder where we hid 8 years ago to ride out a storm that had greeted us on the summit.
Shirley topping out on pitch 5 (Aug. 2012).
We thought about hiking out that evening but feel tired (huffing and puffing at altitude) and Blondie insists on just chilling. And there are no mosquitoes (none!!). We kill off the rest of the food and hit the sack. Up at 6am and eating a substantial breakfast in Pinedale by 11. The 900+ mile drive home eats up the rest of Sunday.
Blondie taking a sip out of Big Sandy Lake during our approach hike (Aug. 2012).
My girls on the hike in to Warbonnet (Aug. 2012).
Shirley and Blondie on our approach hike. Southeast face of Warbonnet Peak with its Black Elk (IV 5.11-) route dominates the view. Sundance Pinnacle is on the left (Aug. 2012).
Starting up the first pitch of Black Elk – this is the only easy one of the route and we broke it up into two. Mitchell Peak (its unattractive backside) is in the background (Aug. 2012).
Shirley on the first pitch (actually first half pitch) of Black Elk. Sundance Pinnacle and North Lake are in the background (Aug. 2012).
Leading the second half of pitch 1. The dihedral above me marks the start of the hard climbing (Aug. 2012).
Leading the book pitch 2 of Black Elk – powerful moves lead to easier climbing and eventually to a semi-hanging belay midway up the dihedral system (Aug. 2012).
Shirley on pitch 2 (our 3) of Black Elk (Aug. 2012).
Shirley topping out on pitch 3 of Black Elk. We exited the dihedral about 20 feet below its end (and the one bolt on the route) and climbed the easy face in the photo (Aug. 2012).
Starting up the crux pitch (#4) of Black Elk – nice easy crack quickly becomes a huffing fest as it opens up to fist size (#3.5-4 Camalot) through the two overhangs (Aug. 2012).
Milking a stance (not much really) under the second and harder roof on the crux pitch (Aug. 2012).
Shirley following the crux pitch – this is above the second roof and where the crack becomes its widest (Aug. 2012).
Shirley happy to be done with the hardest climbing on the Black Elk route (pitch 4; Aug. 2012).
Leading pitch 5 – funner than it looks from below (Aug. 2012).
Shirley following the fun pitch 5 of Black Elk (Aug. 2012).
View south/southeast from high on Black Elk. North Lake and Sundance Pinnacle are in the foreground. Haystack (left), Steeple Peak, and East Temple Peak are the obvious formations in the background (Aug. 2012).
Shirley topping out on pitch 5…not much of a ledge for belaying there. More like a sloping, narrow ramp (another semi-hanging belay; Aug. 2012).
Leading the start of the 7th pitch of Black Elk. This is the right hand side exit from behind the chockstone (Aug. 2012).
Looking back at Shirley belaying me from the huge ledge under the huge-r chockstone (Aug. 2012).
Looking back down from the lead of the seventh pitch of Black Elk. The HUGE chockstone is below (Aug. 2012).
Shirley topping out on the SE wall of Warbonnet Peak high above the Black Elk route (Aug. 2012).
North Lake in early morning light (Aug. 2012).
Blondie after a semi-dip in Big Sandy Lake (Aug. 2012).
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