Jared Ogden and Ryan Nelson have made a post-modern ascent of the Hallucinogen Wall in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, freeing 13 of the 14 pitches in standard big-wall free-climbing style and dry tooling one super-thin face high on the wall. The two men worked on the free ascent of Colorado’s most coveted aid route for much of the spring and completed all of the pitches (out of order) from May 20-22. Ogden and Nelson placed two new bolts to protect a variation to a pendulum on the fourth pitch and replaced the route’s 24-year-old bolts with new hardware, but added no fixed protection to the original route. As a result, many of the pitches were quite hairy, including three pitches of 5.13- and four 5.12 leads that involved long runouts on bolts or fixed copperheads. It’s the “D10+” 11th pitch, however, that’s likely to incite the liveliest chat-room discussion. Finding the nearly blank rock on this pitch impossible to hold onto (the original aid climbers, even after establishing numerous A4 or A5 hooking leads, bolted through this section), Nelson decided to try dry tooling, with rock shoes on his feet and leashless ice tools in his hands. He had modified one tool for the crux by bolting a Pecker micro-piton to the pick. Using these tools, Nelson, who has redpointed 5.13+ and M12, was able to “free climb” the pitch on his fourth attempt. “The dry tooling was exceptionally hard, with steep roofs and the most technical rock sections I’ve encountered,” he said. “By having two tools and using my feet, my weight was distributed more evenly, allowing me to pass through the blankest section.” Whether this unconventional tactic will be broadly accepted – or what it will be called -- remains to be seen, but Ogden, for one, believes it will “open new doors to the future of big-wall free climbing.” The pair grades the Hallucinogen Wall VI 5.13- D10+ R.
Vote on the climbing.com poll about dry tooling on the Hallucinogen Wall.