Saturday, August 7, 2010

The North Rim of The Black Canyon of the Gunnison

From a distance the Black Canyon of the Gunnison looks out of place. You see the green treeless landscape, and it is so green because of the unusual rains. Against it or really across it runs a obvious canyon with cliffs, but its only as you near the rim that you get any idea of its depth.
The canyon ranges in depths from 1700 feet at the narrows, to 2700 feet at Warner Point, over half a mile. It seems deceiving as you look down it, you have nothing for scale, so you have to compare it to something you know well. For me Devils Tower was the obvious choice.
The narrows is three times as deep as the vertical height of Devils Tower and four and a half times the height at its deepest. As I looked down into the depths, I felt the desire to feel the rock, the same feeling I got at Yosemite. There were many vertical lines and one that sat in a dihedral looked like such a clean and beautiful route.
I am nearing sixty years of age and yet I still feel the same as when I was younger and climbed the hard rock, pounding iron into cracks. I suppose the desire and longing for the rocks touch and the need to dance on a vertical rock dance floor, will never cease, never leave. Or at least I hope it never does.
Looking down we went from place to place, the Narrows, The Leaning Camel, Balancing Rock. The river far below was a series of whitewater pools and George told me how he had heard that it was full of big trout that had rarely seen a fly.
Across the gorge the south rim was busier, and we only shared the north rim with another couple, oh and a coyote. He seemed unconcerned with our presence and even trotted right past us, as close to a wild coyote as we have ever been. Stopping, he lapped water from a puddle on the granites surface. What could taste better or be cleaner then fresh rainwater on hard rock, high on the Colorado Plateau?
We both enjoyed the north rim and its solitude. It was so nice to share with our friends George and Val as they guided us to a place only 15 minutes from their ranch. Fifteen minutes and yet so far back in time then most of the tourist places we have been.
I thought again of the rock and the gorge and how hard it would be to climb out. The verticality of the rock still causes me to pause as I think of the gorges sheer walls and stunning depth. However such an attempt will have to wait for another time as this journey is really one in which we are merely sampling the area, and the area and its beauty is definitely a do over. Climb on, oh and Clear skies!

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