Posted on: September 1, 2003

The Hooker Buttress in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison as seen from the South Chasm View Overlook. The wall is approximately 1,700 feet high. Routes shown are as follows: 1. Pathfinder (V 5.11-, 19 pitches, Dickey-Webster, 1991) 2. The Gothic Pillar (V 5.10+ A3, 11 pitches, Kor-Webster, 1987) 3. Baroque Down Palace(IV 5.10+, 9 pitches, Achey-Hollenbaugh, 1995). 4. The Hooker (V 5.9 A3, 8 pitches, Covington-Westbay, 1975; FFA [IV 5.10+ R]: Becker-Webster, 1978). 5. Cheap Hooker (V 5.12- [5.9 X obligatory], 10 pitches, Donahue-Ogden, 2003). 6. Cheap Shot (V 5.10+ X, 12 pitches, Cassidy-Wiggins, 1984). 7. Dry Hard (IV 5.10+, 10 pitches, Cassidy-Wiggins, 1984). [Photo] Jared Ogden

The first route on the Hooker Buttress, The Hooker (IV 5.10+ R), was established in May 1975 by Michael Covington and Billy Westbay. The second route, Cheap Shot (V 5.10+ X), was added in 1984 by Katy Cassidy and Earl Wiggins. The guidebook notes that these poorly protected, runout routes are "hard, consistent and serious." Not surprisingly they have seen only a handful of ascents.

Lured by these descriptions, in April 2002, Topher Donahue and I rappeled 800 feet off the rim between The Hooker and Cheap Shot to a ledge below a huge roof to see how good the climbing might be. The roof looked intimidating, runout and questionable. Topher led up a face section, placed a blade in a seam and continued up more strenuous face climbing (5.11+) in a corner to gain a long, traversing hand crack past the large roof for a 160-foot pitch on which the trail rope hung twenty feet out from the belay. Two pitches later we ran into the crux 5.12- crack just as it started to rain. Topher freed this pitch, placing two pins in a seam below a thin technical face section. I finished up a long, unprotected corner. On this initial recon we learned that the top section of the route is composed of high-quality rock with incredible exposure and great free climbing.


We returned later in the spring to try it from the bottom, but only made it up four pitches before we ran out of time.

On May 27, 2003, we hiked back into the Canyon with two gallons of water and a little clothing for a bivy, determined to finish the route. Familiarity with the first four pitches allowed us to make better time. Highlights include the second pitch, which climbs solid edges up a slab past a bolt to a technical 5.11 face and a belay below a pegmatite band. Pitch 3 takes a corner into a huge pegmatite band and traverses left for more than 100 feet with only two bolts and a few RPs in pegmatite crystals for pro. Climbing past a roof and up a corner leads into the third pegmatite band. There is one bolt on this seventy-foot section, which leads into the main corner of the upper wall. Topher climbed this corner at 5.9 on the best rock I've seen in the canyon. Battleship-gray, shear granite with bomber gear and excellent face climbing leads to the ledge we had rapped to the previous year.

The Cheap Hooker (V 5.12- [5.9 X obligatory], 1,700') is exceptionally good and well worth the effort. We drilled six bolts, all on lead, and left three pins in place for subsequent ascents.

— Jared Ogden, Durango, Colorado, USA

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