Comic Relief is considered by many to be the best 5.10 moderate climb
at the Black. Its first pitch up a stellar finger/hands splitter (1st and 2nd pitch typically combined) along with the option to include Lightning Bolt Crack (5.11)
as a variation of its 6th pitch makes this route one of the better sustained trad moderates in all of Colorado. Of its five main pitches, four of them offer outstanding climbing at the grade.
Finding a sandstone type splitter (top half of the combined first/second pitch) in rock this hard (unusual granite variations, i.e. combination of quartz and pegmatite) is quite the treat. If not adding the Lightning Bolt Crack variation (5.11) near the top, this first long pitch is for sure the crux of the route via 5.10 finger crack climbing.
It is definitely preferable to combine these first two pitches
from both efficient and safety perspectives. Run up the fun and easy left facing corner and place a long directional
as you move right, out to the base of the splitter running up the right face. The crux move involves an early lay back on minute features. It is easy to get suckered into trying to climb this section straight-in via features to the left but those false moves will lead to an improbable off-balance move.
Instead, after one or two initial moves up the crack, lay back out right for one move that gets you back up to decent finger locks. From there the crack arcs up and left and offers enjoyable and well protected climbing at the grade. The third (second) pitch is uneventful. The third (fourth) pitch starts out with a long, but easy, traverse out left and then runs up a fun flaring chimney (5.9) to a great ledge. The fourth (fifth) pitch pulls a bulge up and right and then leads to a fantastic and sustained (5.9) left facing corner.
The final technical pitch can be the Lightning Bolt Crack (5.11) or the original finish which is the same for Escape Artist
, the somewhat dirty left facing corner. The last several rope length pitches can be soloed or simul-climbed to the top of the formation just as you would for Escape Artist.
Head down SOB gully (between the ranger station and the campground on the north side of the road) until you almost reach the river. Before the bottom, look for a shoulder of white rock on the left.
Scramble above this ledge, then back right along a narrow ledge
and up to the large vegetated area below the wall. Scramble up a 4th class chimney to a small, but comfortable ledge right below the obvious left facing corner with a finger crack in it.
You are below the obvious crux, the arcing splitter directly above you, and the corner is now to your left. This is basically the same start as Escape Artist which goes up and left. Watch out for poison ivy
; in October it has a very distinct golden color and there is tons of it in the SOB gully.
Route DescriptionComic Relief, 950’+/-, 5.10
1st/2nd Pitches- 175’- 5.10/
Folks who make this a rope stretcher with a 70m are starting too low. Scramble up to the base of the left facing corner and belay from there. Climb the corner (easy 5.9 if even) and turn it out right at the top. Make sure to extend any pro you place so there is minimal rope drag when you start up the 5.10 splitter. The traverse right is on easy ground. The first move up the splitter and relative pro are easy going. At that point you can get suckered into some face features on the left side of the crack. Rather make a committing lay back move out right to step up and reach a good finger lock. The lay back was the crux move for me. From there, enjoy the fingers to small hands crack as it arcs left and up to a comfortable belay ledge with a medium to large gear belay. For the final meters the crack becomes more of a corner with decent face features out left. Super pitch.
3rd Pitch- 140’- 5.8/
This is the only nondescript pitch of the climb. Climb up the left facing corner. Traverse right at its top and continue up easy ground/slab to another short corner and climb it to a good belay stance below a steep black corner.
4th Pitch- 120’- 5.9/
Cool pitch. Climb the short corner which leads to the traversing slab out left. I chose to run out that initial section to avoid rope drag. Traverse left on low angled slab with plenty of pro opportunities. Extend any pieces you place. Right before you reach a large flaring corner it gives you one exposed move. Climb the flared corner (5.9) with good hands to its top on a nice ledge. A variation is to take on the steep black corner above the belay.
5th Pitch- 130’- 5.9+/
Yet another great pitch, but you can’t see the goods from the belay. Climb up easy ground and pull the bulge (5.9) up and right. Then walk right to the base of the tall left facing corner. Climb this great pitch (5.9+) to the large ledge below Lightning Bolt Crack (5.11). Belay below it or the traditional corner finish (5.9+) to the left of it.
6th Pitch- 100’- 5.9+/
This pitch is a bit dirty and loose but still offers fun and well protected corner climbing for the first several meters off the deck. It gets much easier after a few meters. Look to stem out right and exit the corner system on easy ground to a long ledge system.
7th/8th Pitches- 300’- 5th/
I was comfortable soloing this ground. Run up intermittent corners and cracks to the top of the formation. If you angle left toward the end, you will find the best rap option at the very left corner.
A 60m rope gets you down from the left most anchor no worries. Scramble up the gully to the north. Turn right at the top and find the campground in less than 5 minutes.
60m rope works out just fine including the combination of the first two pitches and the single rope rap you need to reach the final gully out. If folks are having problems with length on those first two pitches it is because they did not start high enough. To avoid being short, make sure to scramble up to the base of the left facing corner for the start of the route. Standard double rack to C4#3 with extra off-set finger cams for pitch 2 and the lightning bolt crack if you are finishing on it, or a full set of wires. I used a #00 at the crux on the 2nd pitch.
Much is made to do about whether or not to bring a C4#4. It is not needed except for the belay at the top of pitch 2. Save at least one #3 for that belay and you should be fine. The route wanders quite a bit, so mostly count on slings vs draws. The temps in the canyon are considerably warmer than the campground at the top of the rim. This route gets good shade until mid-afternoon in October. Dress accordingly. Helmets advised.