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Greg Cameron, getting out the BIG gear with the in...
If you're looking for the full-body workout, you could do worse than venture up Air Voyage. The route is most notorious for a 60-foot-long section of offwidth on the 10th pitch that is rated 5.12-. All of the hard climbing on this route is, in fact, wide.
Overall, the climbing is rather strenuous but nothing special for the first 7 pitches. Then things change. The next 5 pitches are interesting and/or hard. There is no reason to bring anything larger than a #4 Camalot until the crux offwidth pitch, so leave these in the pack until then. The follower (with the pack) will hate his/her lot in life for much of the climb.
I was unable to actually free the crux offwidth when I recently did this climb with George Lowe. I had led this pitch free with relative ease; however, in 1991 with Clean Dan Grandusky and then again in 1992 with Tom Dickey. I'm interested in hearing how folks have fared on this thing.
Descend the Cruise Gully and hike down all of the way around the nose of the North Chasm View Wall and then around a buttress where the wall comes closest to the river. You will then begin hiking up for a few hundred feet where you will see a bushy, right-leaning ramp on your right. Ascend the 4th-class ramp for about 300 feet to its top. You're at the right spot to rope up when you see a lot of orange-colored lichen on a face with a finger crack running through it.
P1). Traverse a bit right and then climb up some mixed face and crack to a good ledge about 130 feet above the start. The crux (5.9+) is a hand crack towards the end of the pitch.
P2). Work up and left (5.8) for about 60 feet to a small ledge at the base of a right-facing dihedral.
P3). Climb a full-length pitch up the dihedral (strenuous 5.9) to its top. The top is a large, boulder and cobble strewn ledge. Two old, 1/4-inch bolts can be anchored to but camming anchors can be found to the climber's left of the bolts.
P4). Work up and a bit right on 4th-class terrain for about 60 feet to the base of a contorted crack. Climb the crack (5.8) for about 60 feet to a good stance (save a #4 Camalot for the belay).
P5). Continue up the crack for about 35 feet then traverse straight left to gain access to an obvious right-facing corner system. Continue up the corner for about 60 feet (5.10, wide) to a good ledge behind a flake.
P6). Continue up the corner (strenuous 5.9+, 3-4 inch) to a hanging belay. There is enough rope to get to a decent ledge 45 feet higher, but, chances are, you've already used up any gear larger than a number one Camalot.
P7). Continue up the corner for 45 feet past a roof (5.10) to a good ledge.
P8). This is the best (and second-hardest) pitch on the climb. Climb up the right-facing corner for about 60 feet (5.10 wide), then work left along a thin crack (5.11-) to a 3-4-inch crack near an arÍte. Climb the strenuous crack past an offwidth section (5.11b/c) to a large ledge.
P9). Traverse straight left along the ledge (5.8), which thins and requires some balance moves in order to gain access to an even larger ledge directly below the obvious crux offwidth.
P10). This is the defining pitch of Air Voyage. The 60 feet of 6 - 8- inch wide crack is not all that scary-looking. It's just vertical and is an obvious left-side-in offwidth. When I did this in 1991 and 1992, there was a fixed tube chock about 20 feet up, and I remember just going for that tube chock and then running it out (maybe with one larger cam in between) until a #4 Camalot could be placed about 60 feet up. More recently, armed with the biggest camming devices available (but with more weight, age, and less intestinal fortitude) I mostly aided the beast using a #6 Camalot (which will fit the entire way up), a #5 and #4.5 Camalot (which fit here and there), and a couple of Big Bros. It isn't pretty, but it really isn't all that hard to aid. You can elect to finish this pitch all of the way up the now 4 - 5-inch-crack or make a hanging belay using #4 Camalots just above the offwidth section (wired nuts and/or a 1/2-1-inch cams will also fit here). I've done it both ways, and, for this description, I have elected to break up the pitch into two. The reason you might want to do the hanging belay is that you can use the #4.5 and #5 Camalots in the crack above. By the way, the fixed tube chock is no longer there, nor are the fixed wires at the top of the offwidth (indicated in Derek Hersey's topo, attached)
P11). Follow the straight in 4 - 5-inch crack (5.10, strenuous) to its end and then traverse right under the roof (5.10) to a very exposed hanging belay. The last part of the traverse is a stomach crawl.
P12). Climb a 3-4-inch crack for about 50 feet (5.10+) then move right under a roof (5.8). This is the semi-famous Womb Fight section, so named because you crawl on your belly to gain the other side of the roof. There is a large ledge that awaits you immediately after the belly crawl.
P13). Walk up the right-leaning ramp for about 40 feet and then ascend the broken face with cracks (5.9) to the top.
Standard rack along with 3 #4 Camalots, 3 #5 (or mixture of #4.5 and #5 Camalots), 1 (or 2) #6 Camalot, 2 #3 Big Bros.
This is a topo of Air Voyage drawn at Old Chicago ...
Climbers on the OW just before sunset on 9/27/09.
Larger version of the previous picture.
|By Anonymous Coward|
Jan 13, 2006
Greg, I don't know if you remember me, but you, Clean Dan, Derek and I hung out on more than one occasion at the campground on the North Rim swilling beers, (Sheaf Stouts, of course on the part of Derek and myself) way back when. I climbed a number of routes with Derek back then in the Black, mostly getting dragged up serious pitches. Those are very special memories for me. If I remember correctly at all, Derek was not able to free the infamous OW. I'm almost sure that we did not have any more than one extra-large camming unit, if that: it just was never Derek's style to carry much gear for specialized situations. I think we carried a bicycle-type water bottle for each of us, a couple of Snicker's, and an apple for me (Derek did not believe in eating fruit.) in a small fanny pack. We may have each had a long-sleeve tee shirt wrapped around the waist, but certainly no real rain gear. I would never go that light today on such a major route, but I was far less experienced then and also I had tremendous faith in Derek. We ran out of water long before getting to the crux OW and were really suffering. When we got to the start of that pitch, Derek reached into the crack and pulled out a bottle of something. It could have been urine and I would have guzzled it, but it was water with some kind of mysterious chunks floating around inside. We drank all of it and went on our way. Derek may have free climbed to the old tube chock, rested on that, and then did a couple of moves of french-free using a large unit. He mostly freed that pitch with very little gear. Greg Kenyon (sp?) later told Derek that he had left the bottle of water in the crack a year or two previous to our climb. I never wanted to find out what the chunks in the water were. I definitely remember the weird slithering required on the right-traversing, horizontal OW above the crux, finishing in the dark and coming really close to puking on the rim. I also remember the Anchor Steam that Clean Dan handed me at the top of the exit gully. I may have actually puked back at the campground. Looking at Derek's handwriting on the topo that you scanned into the description for Air Voyage brings back some very nice memories for me, but also memories of how terrible it was when he died. Derek was one of the first people I met when I moved to Boulder 18 years ago, and was my connection to a bunch of very interesting characters in the climbing community. As strange as it sounds now, it never occurred to me that he might get killed soloing. The night Crusher called me with the awful news I was devastated. I suppose you could say that Derek was a bit of a hero to me, and I've certainly lost touch with some of those great and eccentric folks from the past. The loss of Clean Dan removed me from those times one step further, even though I had not seen him for years prior to his death. Hope you are well, and thanks for the walk down memory lane.Brad White
|By Greg Cameron|
Jan 18, 2006
Brad. Like I'm not gonna remember you (OK, so with my bad memory maybe that's not so far-fetched). Great "story behind the topo". Here's to Derek, Clean Dan, and magical days climbing and hanging in the Black Canyon.
|By Tom Dickey|
Jan 30, 2006
I want to add a comment to Greg's description of his ascent with me up Air Voyage. He completely WALKED up that hideous offwidth, and continued up the next pitch, all in one in a matter of 7-10 minutes, tops. We generally climbed at the same level, so when I saw this, I figured it would be a cruise. Boy was I wrong. I left half of my right lung dripping on the rock there, I was working so hard! we had no big pieces, and thrutching up that made the Harding Slot feel like a cakewalk. The man is an offwidth animal!
|By Olaf Mitchell|
From: Paia, Maui, Hi,
Oct 24, 2008
Air Voyage is definitely the wildest, most exposed and physically demanding route that I have ventured on in the Black! I was "soo" fortunate to have Peter Prandoni as my partner for the climb.He gracefully swam up the 12 off width with the technique that only a veteran of numerous desperate wide cracks could. I on the otherhand groveled and whined my way up that section and never regained my usual energy level through the remaining pitches.We finished in the dark and was greeted by a ranger that was so glad to see us that he couldn't be mad that we hadn't signed in for the climb.Four stars for sure!
Dec 29, 2008
I thought Air Voyage finished out left after the OW, and the 8th Voyage finished straight up like described above?? Has anyone here done the 8th Voyage? Always wanted to do it....
|By Greg Cameron|
Jan 11, 2009
Mn, you are correct. I actually described the Eighth Voyage finish. It is by far the most obvious way to go...just stay in the crack.
|By Patrick Peddy|
Mar 8, 2011
I remember worrying about the rope cutting over the sharp flake on the .11 OW pitch just before the traverse to get to the Money pitch. We spent the night in intermittent rain on the ledge above this section just underneath the" mirror on the wall" flake that can be seen 150' to the right of the 12 ow. The Black is home to some huge bats!