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The Black Wall
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High Variance 

YDS: 5.12b French: 7b Ewbanks: 26 UIAA: VIII+ ZA: 26 British: E5 6b

   
Type:  Trad, Alpine, 8 pitches, 700', Grade IV
Consensus:  YDS: 5.12b French: 7b Ewbanks: 26 UIAA: VIII+ ZA: 26 British: E5 6b [details]
FA: Matt Wilder
New Route: Yes
Season: Summer / Early Fall
Page Views: 1,676
Submitted By: Matt Wilder on Oct 13, 2013

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The arete on the final 12a pitch.

Description 

This route follows a bunch of cool features on the right side of the wall in an area that seems to be dry often. The style is varied though it requires a significant amount of crack climbing. As is standard on the Black Wall, the rock is fairly scaly in parts. Most of this comes off with traffic leaving behind perfect granite. The climbing is great, and as it sees more traffic, I think this route could become a classic. 3 bolts were added to protect the crux pitches in addition to 2 two-bolt belays (all 1/2 inch by 2 and 3/4 inch stainless steel bolts). All pitch lengths below are rough estimates:

Pitch 1: Follow the crack / corner up and right to lower angled terrain. Mostly just follow the path of least resistance. Belay on a ledge where the rock becomes more vertical and there are less grassy clumps. Gear belay (5.8, 100 feet).

Pitch 2: Start up the corner, and then after about 20-30 feet of climbing, head left on flakes. Climb up a big undercling / left-facing flake left of the main crack to a small ledge that joins the main crack. Belay here or go up 10 more feet to another ledge. Gear belay (11a, 70 feet).

Pitch 3: Follow the crack / corner up to the chimney feature and squeeze your way out the left side. Continue your way past bigger blocks that appear, and may be, somewhat loose. A couple more bouldery moves and you get to the big grassy ledge. Gear belay (10c, 160 feet).

Pitch 4: Climb the left-most crack in the corner for about 30-40 feet. Eventually trend right on cracks that lead up to the roof and follow juggy holds up and right around the roof and onto a small ledge. Gear belay (10c, 80 feet).

Pitch 5: Follow the crack in the corner via mostly easier climbing. Continue up to a small ledge. At this point, the corner continues to the left and a cool seam splits the bulge above. Follow some face moves out right to get into the seam and clip a bolt. Pull crux sloper moves through a bulge that leads to easier climbing up to a ledge. Bolt belay (12b, 100 feet).

Pitch 6: Move out right to enter a collection of flared cracks. Move past some decent gear and then up to a bolt. Continue up and slightly right to the big, horizontal ledge. Cut back left a bit through the roof to join the corner. Pull another smaller roof into the full corner and climb halfway up to a no-hands stem. Gear belay (12b, 60 feet).

Pitch 7: Continue up the corner and around to the left to a bouldery crux that lead up to horizontals. Follow the horizontals right to the arete. Make a long reach to clip the bolt and then follow the arete via slappy moves. Continue up the arete switching sides a couple of times until reaching a ledge just below the top of the cliff. Bolt belay (12a, 80 feet).

Pitch 8: Climb straight up through the roof if dry (5.10b). Otherwise climb out right through the easier weakness to gain the summit. There is a bolt belay on the short wall up and right (this is the top of Rainbow Highway). Bolt belay (10b, 30 feet).


Location 

Start at the base of the wall between Coffee Achievers and Emerald Highway. Probably the best way to get to the base is via the raps on the Good Evans side of the wall. Go all the way down the base, and then hike along the wall. It would be difficult to rap the route, because the lower pitches are angled. Though it could probably be done with two ropes and directionals.

To find the start of the route, identify the obvious overhanging / left-angling chimney about 250 feet up the wall. This is the main feature of the lower part of the route. Follow the obvious crack down from the roof until it is less distinct and intersects the lower angled terrain. That intersection point is the top of the first pitch. Start left of this point at the base of a somewhat grassy right-angling ramp/corner/crack.


Protection 

The gear on the route is good most of the way with very few mandatory runouts. The crux pitches are well-protected. Rack: nuts, double set of cams from purple master cam to hand-sized pieces, one or two larger pieces (you probably could place a #4 Camalot but shouldn't need it), extra blue and yellow Master Cams would be nice, at least 6 extendable runners though even more is probably better. If you like placing lots of gear, you might want even more.



Photos of High Variance Slideshow Add Photo
The right side of the wall with the route and belays marked.
BETA PHOTO: The right side of the wall with the route and bela...
The route as seen from the bottom. This makes the first few pitches clearer. I think the dotted line is the path I took for the first pitch, but you can pretty much go wherever. This topo is less accurate after about pitch 4.
BETA PHOTO: The route as seen from the bottom. This makes the ...
Brent Butler leading the 10c pitch before the crux. He is about to traverse up and  right through a juggy roof to the base of a beautiful, hanging corner.
Brent Butler leading the 10c pitch before the crux...
Final crux moves on pitch 2. This is a video still shot by Kyle Berkompas for the film Exposure Volume 1 produced by Chuck Fryberger Films.
Final crux moves on pitch 2. This is a video still...
Brent Butler following the second crux pitch.
Brent Butler following the second crux pitch.
Clipping the bolt in the middle of the crux on pitch 6. This is a video still shot by Kyle Berkompas for the film Exposure Volume 1 produced by Chuck Fryberger Films.
Clipping the bolt in the middle of the crux on pit...
Working the kneebars while mini-traxioning the 6th pitch. Video still courtesy of Chuck Fryberger Films.
Working the kneebars while mini-traxioning the 6th...
Sticking the jug on the first 12b pitch.
Sticking the jug on the first 12b pitch.
Comments on High Variance Add Comment
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By Matt Wilder
Oct 13, 2013

Pitch 6 and 7 could be linked, but the drag would be really bad and you'd need lots of gear. I belayed in the corner, because I was sure I would get solid gear there. It's possible and perhaps preferable to climb a bit further to the horizontal after the first crux on pitch 7. I'm not sure if there is enough gear here for a solid belay, but the location would be better.

Probably other pitches could be linked too but would also result in drag (e.g. 1 and 2, and 4 and 5).

Also, I'm open to the other belays being bolted for convenience, though the gear at them is sufficient... just remember to save a few pieces.

By Matt Wilder
Oct 14, 2013

I should also note that the first two pitches have probably been climbed. There was an old fixed (bail?) sling at the top of pitch 2. It seemed that pitch 3 hadn't been climbed, but who knows? Pitch 4 joins with Coffee Achievers for a bit and probably has been climbed completely. I believe that all the 5.12 pitches are new as they required more cleaning and would have been extremely dicey in the state I found them.

By Matt Wilder
Oct 14, 2013

One final note: I gave the route 4 stars as I think that's what it will deserve after 5-10 ascents. That said, right now it's probably just 3 stars as you will likely encounter a bit of flakey rock. Hopefully the route sees some good traffic, but it could be a while before 10 ascents happen.

Also, with two 60m ropes, you could rap the upper part of the route (to the big grassy ledge) and just climb or work that section (pitches 4-8). The upper part is a bit cleaner than the lower part (pitch 3 needs the most work). You could probably rap with a single line too if you leave two additional gear anchors that you pick up on the way back.

By J. Thompson
From: denver, co
Oct 14, 2013

Looks awesome, Matt!
You could always rap Rainbow Highway....
Cheers!
josh

By Matt Wilder
Oct 15, 2013

Good point, Josh, you could rap Rainbow Highway, though I think 1 or 2 of the lower anchors still need a fixed rap setup. At least that was the case when I did the route in late July.

By Aaron Ramras
Jul 13, 2014
rating: 5.12b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6b

Matt, I can't thank you enough for all your hard work putting this climb up! The climbing and position on the crux pitches are outstanding, and it made for one of the better days I've spent climbing in the mountains. With more traffic, the route will only get cleaner and more classic, and as is, I strongly agree that it deserves 4 stars!

As of 07/9/2014, all three crux pitches are completely dry! I assume it stays this way most of the season based on the position of the route.

I'm new to climbing at this grade in the alpine, so I chose to rap in from Rainbow Highway to work out the beta on the crux pitches. From the anchor at the top of Rainbow Highway, we fixed a 70m rope and rapped straight down the full rope length to the ledge/bolt anchor at the start of the knobby slab pitch on that route. From here, we rapped double strand on a single 60m rope angling slightly climber's left to a grassy ledge with a gear belay. From the ledge, you traverse left 20' to join the 5.10c pitch that leads to the base of the crux pitches. The 10c was a little wet in places but completely manageable. The nice part about fixing a 70m is that it would allow one to bail climber's right to the fixed line from several places on the 3 crux pitches in the case of bad weather or exhaustion.

The crux pitches are all relatively clean, very high quality, and quite different from one another (High Variance?). I thought the first 12b pitch was the crux of the climb. The moves off the ledge to reach the bolt are a bit insecure, and the small gear protecting them must be placed with care. The boulder problem above the bolt is powerful and quite a bit easier if you are tall.

The second 12b pitch was my favorite of the climb. The boulder problem past the bolt is steep, exposed, and very technical! The feet on this pitch are crumbly, but with more traffic, it will just keep getting more classic! The traverse into the corner from the horizontal ledge is thrilling and intimidating but proves to be much easier than it looks. Linking the two 12b pitches is very feasible and would be spectacular!

The final 12a pitch is easier than the previous two but felt much more airy. I was not able to reach the bolt before committing to the arete, but I was able to find solid gear to protect the wild traverse moves. Once around the corner, one could place a mid-size cam on a long sling to protect the moves necessary to clip the bolt. Once the bolt is clipped, it would be wise to unclip this sling and leave it for the follower to clean.

For a rack, we found that it was nice to have triples from 0.3-0.5 BD Camalot. I have not done the lower pitches, so I cannot speak to the gear on those. Go get on this climb!!!

By Brent Butler
From: Boulder, CO
Jul 14, 2014

I'll add to what Aaron commented on:

To get to the base of the route, we fixed two 70s from the Rainbow Highway anchor (be set up and prepared for a free hanging knot pass). Then there are a couple of slung horns from which you could use a single 60 to get to the grassy ledges atop the 1st pitch (good idea to bring some tat to replace what is there). It would then be very feasible to simply leave an anchor behind, or find another horn to sling to make another rap to the base of the 1st pitch (we didn't do this, since we weren't too interested in the 5.8 bottom pitch).

Right now this is a better option than the standard rap route into the wall, since there is a good amount of snow you'd have to cross to get over to the right side of the wall. This is also better option then rapping Rainbow Highway, since the only time I did that the pulls were heinous. YMMV though.

The 5.11a pitch is a beautiful corner with a hand crack in it then busts left on fun lieback moves through a finger crack in a flake. It felt insecure due to much exfoliating granite at both my feet, hand jams, and gear placements. This pitch will be classic once a bit cleaner.

The long 5.10+ pitch is also a gem. Steep and bouldery off the belay (probably 11a) into a flair with a good crack in the back. Then up and left into the flaring chimney roof thing. Then steep jug climbing up to the big, grassy ledge belay, we trundled a block or two off this section.

Thanks for a great route, Matt! It's a project that will surely keep me interested for a while to come!