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Of Ivy, Bee Stings and Scenically Cruising
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Sep 9, 2003, 10:43 PM
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Registered: Sep 28, 2002
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Of Ivy, Bee Stings and Scenically Cruising
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Of Ivy, Bee Stings and Scenically Cruising
A climb of Scenic Cruise by Cologman & Flamer
September 5 , 2003
Occasionally a climb comes along on our radar screen, which stands out more than the rest. Perhaps the climb has earned a reputation for being long, hard and sustained, the line is particularly clean or maybe the run-outs make you think twice about the commitment level involved. We often linger over doing climbs like these. They get relegated to that time when we’re climbing well or the end of a season when all our faculties are tuned to the challenge. This often only serves to further our preconceived notions of the climb. Hopefully once we do the climb it measures up to all our hype and consternation. For me one of these climbs came along in the form of Scenic Cruise in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. From the onset of my climbing activities in the Black Canyon it was a climb which I considered a must do. While considered a big line and a formidable route it is frequently done with success. For me it represented a climb near or at the top of my trad climbing abilities. I planned for it, climbed routes aimed at preparing for it and generally kept it on its ultimate tic list pedestal. I managed a pretty fair repetoir of Black Canyon routes working up to when I might do it. The simple pleasures of climbing in the Black only made my penultimate climb more of a goal. I had come to love the place and all its nuances.

Always on the lookout for new climbing partners and eager to share the Black Canyon with them it was no small wonder I found myself headed to do the Scenic Cruise with a new partner on his first trip to the Black. Confidence was brimming as we wound our way from Gunny to the North Rim. Arriving after dark we could only listen to the distant roar of the river and feel that unique sense of incredible size that grabs you when you stand on the rim. The visual impact would have to wait till morning.

Rising in the pre-dawn dark to a starless sky had us second guessing what the weather was going to do. Nonetheless we hurriedly forced down some food and donned our harnesses, gear slings and ropes. True to the old Black Canyon ethic of a rope, a rack and the shirt on your back we made our escape from the rim-side security blanket of the camp ground and headed for the gully. Just as we leave camp a few sprinkles wet our brows and we know the elements are conspiring against us. Resolute in our endeavors we continue on hoping some quirk in the weather will cause these spirits to move on. We comment that other shorter routes are options should we find the weather not to our liking once we descend past the rappels.

Finishing the rappels in the gloom of the breaking day it is clear that rain and drizzle will tease us into timidity. Now amidst the mist and wet we have a new adversary, the Poison Ivy lurks waiting to faintly brush the leg or arm of the unsuspecting. We make the conscious decision that our big climb will have to wait for another day. Unburdened of our objective, we drop our gear and head to the bottom of the canyon to look over future climbs and check on other potential parties. Always cognizant of the verdant ivy we move down. Riverside we scramble over boulders around patches of old-growth ivy and look with awe at the sliver of light overhead. Walls foreshortened by their steepness and the narrowness of the abyss, elicit comments grandiose in their sweep naive in their point.

The rain has stopped, it is still early, we can do a climb and avoid the walk of shame. Mustering our enthusiasm we head toward Journey Home still a formidable climb albeit not Scenic Cruise. But the furies continue to plague us and before we get to the start of the climb more weather rolls in. Still determined to make the best of our descent into this piece of ancient geologic history we opt for an even less committing line, trying at all costs to save face. Moving fast now, neither of us has any confidence in the deck of weather cards we’ve been dealt, my partner gets stung by a bee. A seemingly insignificant event in the course of things, until he informs me he is allergic to bee stings and has to get to the rim NOW! We quicken our pace up the gully and head for the rappels. While coming down the gully rapping is both quick and safe third classing up is not problematic. My partner motivated by an intimate knowledge I can only guess at, ranges up the gully far faster than I. I follow along behind trying not to be so slow that I contribute to his problems and yet clearly out of the picture.

Emerging from the Pinons at the top of the gully I hear my name shouted from the near-by ranger station and see him wave. Relieved, I walk down to the station and find him in good spirits with the ranger in attendance. I learn he has eaten a horse size dose of Benadril and seems to be doing alright. The ranger wants him to hang there for a while monitoring his vitals. Just to be on the safe side.

It occurs to me, while waiting at the station, that neither of us really has any plans pulling us back to reality for the next day. I propose the obvious. We can take it easy the rest of the day, see how his bee sting progresses and if all goes well climb Scenic Cruise tomorrow. Roundly received by the Ranger and most important of all, by my partner our course is set once again.

The pre-dawn sky the next morning is invitingly clear. Stars twinkle and are eclipsed by the setting burning red orb of Mars. Our chosen day is good. Motivated by the previous day’s trip down the gully we jettison more of what was already a light approach. Discarding approach shoes in favor of descending in our climbing shoes.

It is amazing how fast we become accustomed to a routine. Our headlight descent of the gully is no more than another approach. We body block our ropes nonchalantly from the embrace of ivy as we pull them on the last rappel. Quickly we clamber down to the base of the climb. Rearing up from a veritable cornucopia of Ivy the route calls us up. Simul-climbing warms us on the first three pitches. The grips of the climb comes quickly then and so does the sun and its heat.

The cruxes come at us now, first a thin finger crack followed by incredible hand jamming up a steep headwall. A thin run-out traverse commands respect and attention. More incredibly steep finger and hand jamming and the sun starts to take its toll. Water runs thin as our throats swell and parch. But the climbing is great as we jam up the seemingly endless cracks. We keep moving quickly, resting only briefly, making changeovers go quick. Brief words of encouragement and advice prod each of us on as we move through the pitches.

We know we have it in the bag but our arms weary of jamming and our parched throats keep us humble. Just in case we were too cocky, thunder rumbles loudly in clouds unseen beyond our world. The pitches left keeps dwindling and finally we scramble the last pitch to the rim. Our smiles broaden and overwhelm the grimace etched from feet swelling in the heat and throats long since parched to hoarseness. We make the short and surreal walk to camp and a beer.



Sep 10, 2003, 10:20 AM
Post #2 of 3 (1024 views)

Registered: Oct 22, 2002
Posts: 2955

Re: Of Ivy, Bee Stings and Scenically Cruising [In reply to]
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I could not have asked for a better partner, thanks for sharing the Black with me Jeff.


Sep 11, 2003, 6:06 AM
Post #3 of 3 (1024 views)

Registered: Dec 14, 2001
Posts: 7129

Re: Of Ivy, Bee Stings and Scenically Cruising [In reply to]
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The Black Canyon has always been a magical destination for myself and my wife ever since we visited there PK (Pre-Kid). We have GOT to get back there.

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