For those in search of a little shade, solitude, and some of Shelf's most difficult routes, this fine little crag is a welcome refuge from the canine infested toprope mecca that is Cactus Cliff. In many ways, the Great Black North is the antithesis of its more famous neighbor to the South. Grades here tend to be stiff, bolts are well-spaced, and routes are few & far between. The crag faces due north, but a variety of buttresses & dihedrals tilt some walls slightly to the east or west, such that, at the height of summer, various routes will receive sun in the morning & afternoon. This area lacks the large pine trees that are common at Shelf's other North-facing cliffs, making this cliff deceptively exposed in the summer. The rock here is generally excellent, covered in classic shelf pockets, though many of the routes feature some amount of vegetation, and a narrow band of stacked choss guards the start of many routes. Much of the rock has a black coating of lichen, like routes on the Dark Side, and the upper, slabbier sections are covered in vertical, Verdon-esque flutings.
Despite the many attractions, the Great Black North is rarely visited by climbers. There are few moderate lines, and first-hand beta is hard to come by. The approach is not flat and guarded by a river crossing. The cliff base is relatively vegetated, making travel between routes tedious. However, for those interested in probing the upper echelons of difficulty, this crag can't be beat. With five 5.13s and one 5.14, this is a worthy destination for hard-men, and the handful of 5.12s sprinkled in between offer some of the best pocket cranking this side of Wild Iris. A clandestine developer has added a number of enjoyable moderates in recent years, and plenty of potential for new moderates remains.
Note: Many of the routes here are guarded by a band of choss, and generally the first bolt is very high up. Stick clip highly recommended!
Routes L --> R:
1. Don't Eat Stuff on the Sidewalk
, 5.11+, 4 coldshuts, 2 BA.
2. Laugh the Past Away
, 5.11c, 5 bolts, 2 BA.
3. It's All Gone
, 5.11a, 4 bolts, 2 bolt anchor.
, 5.10d, 4 bolts, 2 bolt anchor.
5. Black Toe Arete
, 5.10-, bolts, 2 bolt anchor.
6. Cold Feet
, 5.9, bolts, 2 bolt anchor.
7. Don't Make Me Shave You
, 5.7, ~4 bolts, 2 bolt anchor.
, 5.10-, 5 bolts, 2 bolt anchor (shared w/ #9).
9. Three Doubles
, 5.11c, 4 bolts 2 bolt anchor (shared w/ #8).
10. Project? (three tan bolts, no lowering hardware, no first bolt)
11. Torch & Twang
, 5.12a, 7 bolts to 2 bolt anchor.
, 5.13d, 8 bolts, 3 bolt anchor.
13. Tower of Power
, 5.12a, 6 bolts, 2 bolt anchor.
14. Chuana Chavaria
, 5.12a, 6 bolts, 2 bolt anchor.
15. Screamer, 5.12c?, 6 bolts?
, 5.12b, 4 bolts to 2 bolt anchor.
17. Dreamer, 5.13a?
18. Where Paradise Ain't So Crowded (aka "Reamer")
, 5.14-, 8 bolts, 2 Bolt Chain anchor.
, 5.11d, 6 bolts, 2 bolt anchor.
20. The Burnt Toast
, 5.11b, 6 bolts, 2 bolt anchor.
21. Tout Tout de Suite
, 5.12b, 7 bolts, 2 bolt anchor.
22. Bete Noir
, 5.12b, 9 bolts, 2 bolt anchor.
23. The Collector, 5.12c?, 7 bolts?
24. Excel, 5.12c?, 7 bolts?
25. Crunch, 5.13b?, 8 bolts, 2 bolt anchor.
26. The Magus
, 5.13b, bolts.
27. Capital Outlay
, 5.12c, ~7 bolts to 2BA (immediately behind east corner of Borg Boulder).
--> Borg Boulder:
, 5.12c, 4 bolts, 2 bolt anchor.
BB2. The Borg
, 5.13a, 3 bolts, 2 bolt anchor.
BB3. Resistance is Futile
, 5.12a, 3 bolts, 2 bolt anchor (shared w/ previous rte).
28. Harp On It (abandoned project?), 5.12a?, 1 bolt, 1 bolt anchor - sketchy anchor.
29. Disappearing Act, 5.12?, 4 SS bolts, 1 chopped bolt, 2 bolt anchor - sketchy anchor.
30. Gone With the Wind, 5.12? 4 coldshuts, 2 bolt anchor - sketchy anchor.
31. Unknown, grade? (looks ~5.11), red angle-iron bolts, anchor?
32. Abandoned Project? 1 bolt.
The Great Black North is the Northern-most crag at Shelf. Follow Sheld Road north, past the Bank turnoff, below Cactus Cliff, Spiney Ridge, and the Gym. After passing the Gym, the road enters a canyon, then banks to the left, then back right, to the first river crossing. The small pullout on the left, 50 feet south of the bridge, is the parking for The North End. Continue north along the road 0.5 miles beyond the bridge. The road curves left (w), then crosses a cattle guard. Park at a small pullout on the right, immediately past the cattle guard, behind a large boulder.
To approach, hike west along the road for ~20 yds, then head south, through the field, towards the creek. Scope out the river crossing, don the appropriate equipment and ford the river. This river can be pretty high & fast-moving so use caution. A walking stick or ski pole of some kind is strongly advised. Once across the river, head downstream for ~10 yds and pick up a good climber's trail, marked with cairns, heading more or less directly up the hillside through the trees, to the south. This trail is marked with cairns the entire way, but wanders a lot, so keep your eyes peeled. The approach trail arrives at the cliff just west of "Skank-to-Crank". Most of the routes are found to the west of this point.
24 Total Climbing Routes
['4 Stars',3],['3 Stars',10],['2 Stars',9],['1 Star',2],['Bomb',0]