After camping in Lake City, and having a wonderful dinner with two retired oilmen at one of the restaraunts in town, I got up to go and climb Redcloud and Sunshine peaks. I pulled on my shoes and quickly decided that I wasn't going hiking today. I'd cut my nails a bit far back the day before, and although walking in thongs was ok, walking in hiking shoes hurt far to much to go and try tagging two fourteeners. The fact that it was raining didn't help much.
So I took off north instead, towards Gunnison. Took the Blue Mesa Cutoff road, and followed some wonderful hill roads northwards. Met a young guy sluicing for gold in one of the creeks I crossed. He had some flecks come in while I was chatting to him. He's got about 1/4 oz over the last year or so, just hobbying. He's hoping to have enough to make a nice ring for his daughter by the time she gets married.
Pulled into Gunnison, and with plenty of daylight to spare, stopped in at the climbing store, and found someone to go climbing with that afternoon. Brian and I drove out to Harmel's (near Almont) to climb some cliffs he'd been looking at, but had never been to, and had never seen a guide for. Lots of fun. We walked along the base till we found a line that we thought might go nicely to the summit. I led the first pitch up to a some tape and a rap ring, (no first ascents today) which had some interesting moves over neat rock at about 5.8 or so. Brian then led the next pitch, and ended up soloing it. He hadn't wanted to put gear in as we were going to traverse a ledge next, and then he ended up belaying on the ledge anyway. Worked out well for me, as I got to take a harder, really cool direct line up a bulge to follow him, instead of taking the line of least resistence. We were pushing daylight by now, not having left Gunnison till 4pm, and without knowing for sure just how hard this line above us looked, or whether it was going to be one or two pitches to go, we chose to scramble off the ledge. Nice looking line though, and it was nice to get some climbing done in Colorado.
After beers in Almont, some food back in Gunnison with Brian and his fiance, I headed off towards Montrose and the Black Canyon. I needed to get into Sprint digital coverage so I could ring international to call Helen for her birthday. Unsuccessfully I might add, but I tried, and that's what counts.
Next morning I spent doing the rim drive and some short walks along the rim at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. Harsh lighting, but very clear that this is a very steep sided canyon. Black Rock, with lots of huge pink bands and swirls in it, and lots of detached spires in the side gulleys. Plenty of people climbing, and a few walking, but basically this was a very quiet park. (Plenty meaning about 6 parties) Not really much else to see, and in all honesty one of those parks that is not as impressive as some national monuments.
Onwards south towards Ouray.
"Harmels" climbing near Almont, CO
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Climbers on Russian Arete
Red furry ant (almost an inch long)
Painted Wall at Black Canyon