Skip to content


Tricks of the trade: ice tools used on the first free ascent of Free Hallucinations (VI 5.13- R D10+, 600m), Black Canyon of Gunnison, Colorado. Ryan Nelson climbed the crux pitch with three tools; the crux included one move where the hold was too small for a regular pick, necessitating the use of a specially modified bolt-on (pictured). No word yet of similar tactics being applied to the Shield…. [Photo] Topher Donahue

On May 4 and 5, Topher Donahue and I climbed a new route, Tague Yer Time (V+ 5.12, 2,000′), on South Chasm View Wall. We had climbed the route last October but were unable to redpoint it; our ground-up approach necessitated cleaning, and we ran out of time. The route, named in memory of our friend Cameron Tague, features fourteen pitches (nine of which are original) of thin face and crack. The climbing–six pitches of 5.12, five of 5.11 and three moderate pitches–required total concentration.

Across the canyon on North Chasm View Wall, The Hallucinogen
Wall (VI 5.10 A3+, 600m, Becker-Lella-Newberry-Webster, 1980) features steep rock with fearsome runouts and hard climbing through incredibly wild roofs near the top. A few free pitches near the top and bottom lured me into thinking it might all go free. After two recons, one with Mike Shepard, another with Topher Donahue, I decided to one with Mike Shepard, another with Topher Donahue, I decided to do the route wall style for further inspection.

In late March, Ryan Nelson (my partner for the remainder of the project) and I climbed up through Pitch 10, working the pitches on toprope as we climbed. On Pitch 5 I drilled, on lead, a forty-foot, two-bolt variation (5.12+) that avoided a pendulum and reached Fantasy Island. These are the only bolts we added to the route, though we did replace at least half of the twenty-four-year-old, rusted, dangerous, quarter-inch buttonheads with bolts from the American Safe Climbing Association. We were caught in a blizzard on Pitch 11 and bailed the next morning. A month later we decided to rappel in and see if the upper crux pitches would go free. We toproped the five crux pitches in the middle of the climb over eight days spread out over four weeks. Though we were not able to free them all, we felt we were ready for a redpoint attempt.

We only had a few days off from work a week, and hot weather was approaching; if we failed to redpoint any of the crux pitches we’d have to start again from the ground the following week. Thus we redpointed the pitches out of order, freeing the crux pitches first, from May 20-22, while living on the wall. The free climbing features runouts up to thirty feet; Pitch 9 sports a twenty-foot runout over two equalized copperheads on 5.13- climbing with a bolt another ten feet below that–a potential sixty-foot-plus whipper if the junk heads pulled. On the send Ryan came very close to falling off the last two moves to the anchor.

The majority of the crux pitches use fixed copperheads as pro; the psychological preparation was equal to the physical. There are two dramatic crux sections on Pitches 12 and 13 that climb past bolt ladders on the steep, overhanging headwall. Pitch 13 proved to be unclimbable (for us) using traditional free-climbing tactics, so we improvised, using leashless ice tools and rock shoes to “free” the pitch. We call this new style “free aid” or “fraid” and rated the pitch D10+ because we thought it was as difficult as an M10+ mixed pitch. Is it free climbing? Who knows? Perhaps a better climber could free climb this section in the future. We have climbed up to 5.13+ and feel the rest of the climb was done with the highest ethical standards and that this new style was acceptable. All said, Free Hallucinations (VI 5.13-R D10+) was an amazing climb to puzzle together and free.

— Jared Ogden, Durango, Colorado