The Serpent in a Day


Mike Pennings and Josh Wharton have climbed the Black Canyon of the Gunnison testpiece The Serpent (5.11+ R/X, 16 pitches) in 13.5 hours, car-to-car. Pennings and Wharton attempted the one-day ascent in late September, but got lost trying to follow the topo to the route’s wandering and sparsely protected face climbing. They had to rappel and hike back out of the deep Colorado canyon. With better beta from Kennan Harvey, who made the first ascent in 1999 with Jeff Achey, the two had no problem with a one-day ascent on their second try in early October.

The Serpent follows much of the 1972 aid climb The Dragon (5.9 A3+) on the Black Canyon’s Painted Wall, sharing 1,200 feet of The Dragon’s 1,800 feet; the rest is new ground. Achey and Harvey climbed ground-up and placed no bolts during the first ascent. Topher Donahue and Jeff Ofsanko repeated the free climb about a week later. Both ascents took four days.

“Absolutely rad route,” Wharton wrote in an email. “Hats off to Kennan and Jeff for such a great score.”Comment on this story