View from the climb
Fixed rappel in the Guppy GullyMagical Mystery Tour 5.9 is a relatively new route located in the Guppy Gully on the North Rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The route was established by Ryan Reeves and Steve Kay in 2010 and I have to say I have not heard about Guppy Gully or the climb until the new guide book: The Black: Comprehensive Climbing Guide to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park came out. The old guide book by Robbie Williams does not mention this route and Mountain Project did not have any description either. When we were descending down the Guppy Gully, we were wondering whether we are on the right track. There is no trail, no cairns and the fixed rappel is pretty far down. We basically decided to explore and if we were heading down a wrong gully to find the way all the way down to the river. I was so happy when I spotted the fixed rope way down the gully, yes, we were on the track! The Guppy gully has been an unknown gully to most of us for many years, there was no information on-line, so when the new guide book was published last year (2016), it opened up an opportunity to explore. And it actually made a sense that the terrain appeared untraveled. We were most likely the first party in May of 2017 to travel there that year, and probably only a few people climbed this route earlier.
Magical Mystery Tour - I would not rate this climb as a great one, but if you are looking for something short, explore the unknown territory of the Black, avoid other climbers (although you will hear climbers from Russian Arete
and Comic Relief
Buttress screaming their off belay and other shouts), if you are looking for a few good quality 5.9 moves with lots of scrambling, this may be a route for you. Expect also some loose rock and lots of sharp plants along the route. One crack was filled wiht cacti! Some may combine the route with Lauren's Arete, which is located below this one for a full day of adventure climbing. We climbed this route as a part of a rest day after doing Grand Control to Major Tom route
The route description starts with: "Stash some beers near the mouth of the approach gully, strategically placed for retrieval on the way back to camp. This is rule #1 for Mystery Tour." We followed this instruction and the whole climb I was thinking about that beer, it stayed pretty cold in the shade.
You are required to obtain a free permit prior venturing into the canyon. The North Rim has a small park range cabin, there is a board where climbers write their names, route and the length of their stay + fill the permit, carry the yellow copy with you and drop it back on your return.
North Vista Trail
Look up the main Black Canyon of the Gunnison River how to get to the North Rim of the Black Canyon.
Guppy Gully: basically it is a gully between SOB gully and Russian Arete. Expect solitute, unmarked terrain, great views of South Chasm wall, and relatively short outing.
Approach: Park at the Ranger Station (toilet and water here), and hike North Vista Trail for approximately 0.75 miles. Enter the Canyon at the first major sandstone drainage, the trail makes a big turn here. If you walked to the sign Overlook, you went too far. Scramble and down climb (4th class) the gully for quite a long way, there is not marked trail or cairns (2017). Some sections appear steep, but if you come closer you find some weaknesses in the bench and your down climbing should not be more difficult than class 4. The fixed rappel is pretty far down and not visible until very close it it. When you get to an obvious steep section of the gully, head for the tree on the right side and look below, the rappel is anchored with bolts and located just a few meters below the tree.
From the rappel you can see water streaked slabs on the right, continue down through a thick stand of box elders towards the slabs. Locate a bolt on a slab, with a 4-6 inch wide dike running vertically through it. This is the start of your route.
1st pitch 5.9 slab
Pitch 4, Magical Mystery
: 5.9 slab - follow the thin white dike up the slab. The first moves are the hardest, it seems like a long way to the bolt, but climbing gets easier. Above the bolt it is much easier and you will be able to place some small gear. Belay on the terrace, 40 feet left of a pine tree.
Pitch Two: Continue up 5.8 weakness through and around some bushes, then move slightly left into a hand crack. At a sloping edge, move right and belay at the base of a short, wide corner.
Pitch Three: Climb the awkward 5.9 corner, wide (we fit #4 camp here), then step left into another crack system. Follow this to a large terrace. There is a lot of loose stuff and bushes here.
Pitch Four: Move your belay 50 feet directly behind (perhaps slightly to the right to bypass some rocks). Some 5.8/5.9 moves gains the left leaning pegmatite dike on the face. There is a bolt and I thought this was the most beautiful section of climbing. Continue up the wall through a steep 5.9 bulge/roof and belay above.
Pitch Five: Climb a short 5.8/5.9 corner (it looked easy, but moves felt a little awkward), then traverse left under an overhang (sharp bush and cactus in the crack). Continue up easy, broken terrain and belay in an alcove surrounded by massive pegmatite band. The views from here over Guppy gully and down below above Lauren's Arete were amazing.
Pitch Six: A sparsely protected 5.7 peg weakness, up a 4th class ridge, then a few 5.8 loose moves get you at the top of the buttress. It is easy to scramble up from here and head towards the North Vista Trail.
Pick up your stashed beer and enjoy the day.
- Personal climbing gear, helmet is a must
- 60 meter rope is sufficient (there is a fixed rappel, and you end up back at the trail)
- Trad rack with small cams up to #4, plenty of long slings and anchor material
- Plenty of water.