Auer completing his first free ascent of Hallucinogen Wall (5.13+/R). Auer’s ascent was the first time the wall had been freed without resorting to dry tooling. [Photo] Cory Richards
The Black Canyon near Gunnison, CO is still a largely untapped big wall resource. Known for its difficult approaches, suspect rock and poorly protected routes, it is a destination that attracts the experienced and bold. The Hallucinogen Wall (5.10 A3+) on the North Chasm View Wall of the canyon has stood as a big wall classic since its first ascent by Bryan Becker in 1980. Becker graded it A5 and spent seventeen days working on the route. Since that first ascent, the wall has seen a fair number of repeats, rope solos and has even been climbed in the winter. In 2005 Jared Ogden and Ryan Nelson completed a very unique climb by combining dry tooling and rock shoes to “mixed-free” the route for the first time.
Hansjorg Auer was introduced to the Hallucinogen Wall by the cover of an old climbing magazine and as he said, “It was described as a sensational route and [that] immediately made me curious”. When he arrived in Colorado this spring he had one goal, to free the Hallucinogen Wall.
The unpredictable spring weather in Colorado greeted Auer and his partner Ben Lepesant with snow. Over the next three days Auer began to slowly work the moves on the lower pitches. “I didn?t climb the pitches of Hallucinogen in aid before I checked out the sequences.” Auer said, “This proved fairly demanding on some sections as there are some very long hook moves, but I prefer this approach as you get a better overall picture of the line and, above all, you certainly never get bored”
On the day of his first free ascent Auer and Lepesant began at 5am and in a snowstorm but the weather was in their favor. After 10 minutes the the snow let up and Auer was able to free all the pitches on the first go, including the crux pitch which he described as “a really cool sideways dynamic move at the end of a pumpy lower section”. Eight hours and forty-one minutes later he reached the rim of the canyon becoming the first person to free the route (without using ice tools) and beating Ogden and Nelson’s speed record by 18 minutes.