Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Black Mountain

Armed with a near decade old Dr. Topo printout, directions from my buddy Isaac, and a car full of foam, Lib and I made our way to Black mountain for a few days of climbing and shooting.

We arrived the day before the weekend migration from LA, and managed to secure a prime campsite overlooking the entire valley below. With some daylight left we decided to put our topo to use and check out the Boulder Basin Campground area. We soon got our got our bearings and began to take advantage of the cooling temps.

Lib made quick work of a short overhanging V4 face, and after warming up a bit I decided to strap a headlamp on and give an end of the day burn on Transmaniacon, which our topo listed as V7/8.

After a botched flash burn I found a way to force choke this awkward pinch and somehow stuck a desperate throw to the larger edge above. At this point I was torn. I had to finish the boulder, however I hadn't even looked at the top when it was still light out, and now I had to onsight it by headlamp. Luckily, I found an elusive granite edge while fishing around in the dark and made it work. It wasn't until later that I found out this problem has been regraded as a V9.

The following day we met up with Isaac and the rest of the Southern California strongmen and women. Hot off a speeding ticket Isaac and company dusted up the dirt road, tossed all non-bouldering gear out, and saddled up for the hike out to the Tour de France boulder.

I had seen enough photos of this boulder that I felt like I had already climbed on it. With some helpful beta I made a quick ascent of the stand, and watched in wonder as Brett smoothly put together the bottom series of fingerlocks, drop knees and opposing tension that lead into the stand.

From there we headed over to Captain America, where we set up and shot a great sequence of Isaac's ascent. He was even nice enough to repeat it for another angle. After putting the camera down I managed to send third try after receiving a heinous flapper. The psych was high because Kris and Brett sent quickly as well.

Setting up for the final move to the lip on Captain America V9.

With daylight burning, we decided to head down to the Visor area and on to Ex-Patriot.

I'm pretty sure Lib didn't want to climb anything except for Center Visor V6, because we had hardly gotten the pads off our backs before she was down under the roof fondling holds and chalking up. All the built up psych paid off with a second try send of her first V6!

By the time we made the hike down to Ex-Patriot V11 I was running on fumes. After topping out 8 new boulder problems coupled with some involved approaches I had to give it to Black Mountain. The problems are just too good to pass up.

When I rounded the corned and saw the stunning blocked roof of Ex-Patriot I knew that this was the aesthetic triumph of the day. With newly recharged motivation I made a few decent attempts, and the entire hike out found myself thinking of getting on this king line fresh.

That evening around the picnic table I had the pleasure of getting to know most of the core climbing community of Black Mountain. It was one of the best evenings I've had since my stay in Hueco a couple years back.

The following morning we had the good fortune of touring another sector of the mountain with Anthony Tarascio, a strong Black Mountain local and gifted culinary student. In single file we wove around the mountain, ducked low trees, balanced across logs, and just as it felt like we were going to be swallowed up we came to a clearing with giant boulders perched delicately along the hillside. With little shade to be found we threw pads under the unrepeated Das Atrium V9.

Getting into the crux of Das Atrium V9.

Anthony crossing to a pinch high above.

Seeing little success on the highly technical line, I moved to an arete on the same which Anthony put up called Thumbs V6. After figuring out the tricky barn door crux I managed to scramble up for the second ascent of the line.

Next stop was a boulder Isaac had been talking about all weekend, the Wild Things boulder. Upon reaching, and circling the boulder I can safely say it's worth talking about. Proud, high quality rock, with satisfying dynamic movement yielding V8-V13 isn't something you can find anywhere.

An early attempt of Where the Wild Things Are V8 (stand start).

Isaac entering the high crux.

The nicely manicured landing.

Though only Anthony was able to repeat the line we all made a good amount of progress. I was beginning to feel the effects of being three days on and decided to try a few surrounding lines before calling it a day. Anthony came over to join me in my attempts on Tripwire V9 and wound up making the second ascent of the problem.

We hiked out in a red and purple glow, said our goodbyes as the crew packed up, and headed back to a now abandoned campsite. As I write this I'm reminded of how great it felt to climb with a motivated group. With such an amazing first experience at Black Mountain it's safe to say I'll be back soon.

A personal thank you to Isaac Palatt and Anthony Tarascio for the incredible guiding and beta. I'm pretty sure I'd still be trying to find my way around up there otherwise.

P.S. Here is my souvenir from Captain America (Once it finally stopped bleeding).


All photos by Liberty Herring.


  1. Killer writeup! It sounds/looks awesome. To this day whenever I hear about climbing at Black Mountain I think of Rampage. Thanks for sharing.

  2. YESSSS SO GOOOD! Dude nice pics and I'm sure I can speak for Anthony as well when I say that no thanks are necessary. We love sharing our favorite bouldering area with motivated and like-minded individuals like you and Lib. Can't wait to show you Beowulf and so many others! Stay psyched!

  3. The old force choke. Always a classic.