The climb is located on the North Rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
Anyone who has climbed Casual Route, Casually Off the Route, Russian Arete, or climbs on Comic Relief Buttress has seen this very nice looking formation.
The climbing is not too sustained, expect a few hard moves here and there and lots of scrambling in between (more like a mountaineering experience). There are some run out sections and loose rock. Mountain Project gives it rating 5.9R, and you should expect a few moves of that difficulty. (the original rating was 5.7 - Ed Webster).
The views and the atmosphere are amazing, climbing not so. I did prefer other routes in the canyon.
You will hear climbers from surrounding routes yelling "off belay", and you get one of the best views of many very popular climbs, and of course down into the canyon and the Gunnison river flowing through. You may get lucky and even see kayakers negotiating wild waters of Gunnison inside this deep canyon.
The route could be combined with Magical Mystery Tour
in the upper Guppy Gully.
: Ed Webster
and Lauren Husted in June 1984.
Named after Lauren, who has died while finishing the final traverse unroped.
Lauren's Arete is pretty exposed, expect sunshine all day long. Bring plenty of water and start climbing early.
With the new guidebook: The Black: A comprehensive Climbing Guide to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
by Vic Zeilman and his detailed route descriptions and topos, I would expect that Lauren's Arete will become a lot more popular!
North Vista TrailTo reach the North Rim:
Take Hwy 92 past the town of Crawford and turn right (west) onto the North Rim Road, follow the signs for the national park for 11 miles to the North Rim Ranger Station and the North Rim Drive. The first half of the road is paved; the second half is graveled, but suitable for all vehicles. The road and the North Rim Ranger station are closed in the winter.
Note there is no road that links the rims within the National Park (most people visiting only the more popular and touristy South rim of the Black Canyon) - you have to drive around. It is more than 70 miles.
To reach the base of Lauren's Arete you have to hike down the SOB gully
. The SOB gully is a dramatic but non-technical descent into the canyon and has long been popular with hikers, fishermen, and climbers. This gully accesses classic routes such as Casual Route and Casually Off the Route, Escape Artist and Comic Relief, and one can head downstream to the base of the Painted Wall, passing the start of various Arete climbs. The length of the descent is 1.8 miles all the way to the river, but to the base of the climb you descent just a little bit over halfway (about 1 mile). It is class 3 trail down, no rappel necessary (Cruise Gully accessing Maiden Voyage
requires 2 rappels).
Vehicles can be parked in the pull through near the North Rim Campground registration station, or at the North Rim Registration Station
(better). The route begins at the access ladder, along the fence line on the North Rim Drive about 100 feet east of the junction of the campground circle road, or a short distance west of the ranger station. There is a sign at its start.
As I mentioned above, you need to descent about 1 mile, or 4/5 down the gully. Count about 45 min on the hike.
Expect a lot of poison ivy at the lower section of SOB gully (use long pants).
Lauren's Arete is on your right side as you descent. About 100 meters above the river cross over/ scramble with 3rd and 4th class moves over the base of the Lauren's arete.
Start of the route
: the start can be a little hard to find. Descend down SOB gully and just below the Comic Relief Buttress start heading to the right to the obvious formation of Lauren's Arete. Do not go all the way to the foot of the buttress, but instead scramble up from the right side (skier's right) on an easier terrain (class 3-4) to a small ledge with bushes. Traverse this bushy ledge and drop into another gully - lower portion of Guppy Gully. Go up on loose rocks, boulders for about 150 feet, look for another ramp this time on your climber's right and 4th class onto this ramp. The ramp is bushy, but luckily no poison ivy here. Follow this to a nice grassy ledge with great views of Gunnison River below. This is the start of the climb.
Pitch 1: From the ledge start climbing to the right, not hard and then face climb up and right right, where easier terrain leads to a section of 5.8 cracks. Belay in the notch between the towers. ~ 55 meters
Pitch 2: A few 5.8 moves lead to 5.7 to 5.8 crack on the left edge of the wall. Continue on the ridge line finding the easiest and most secure path. Watch for some loose rocks. Belay near the end of the rope. 55 meters.
Pitch 3: This is the crux pitch with some exposed, and maybe 5.9 moves. Move along the right edge of the formation, step across an airy gap and climb the steeper section of the wall here. Above that expect a little run out section, then again another 5.8/5.9 crack with a fixed pin according the book (we did not see it).
Pitch 4: Continue up on the right side of the buttress until you reach a hand crack with an obvious bush on the face. Nice section. Above this move up and left and set up a belay section.
Pitch 5 and 6: simu climbing. Climb over a prominent tower, then down easy low 5th class terrain to a ledge. Belay at the tree below the base of a headwall.
Pitch 7: Climb a 5.8 crack between trees on the left ledge of the wall. Belay at a flat area where you can unrope.
Exit: Easy waking uphill on a relatively wide ledge until it starts to narrow. The final section is exposed traverse (this is where Lauren died), rope up. Most of the traverse is easy, but there are some loose and very exposed sections. The traverse is protectable with small gear. Continue up the easier slopes to reach North Vista Trail. It is about 5-10 min from here back to the North Ranger Station.
1 set of nuts and one set of camalots up to #4. Anchor building supplies - webbing etc.
Personal climbing gear.
One 60 meter rope is sufficient.
Loose rock - so, definitively a helmet!
North Rim Campground
is open from Spring to Fall. There are 13 sites in pinyon-juniper forest with vault toilets, tables and grills. Water is available mid-May to mid-September (we had no water in October). Please do not waste water, park rangers have to haul it in. All sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis (no reservations).
Fee: 16.00 per night.
If the campground is full, you can drive back on the road you came in to BLM land and camp off on the dirt roads there. I have done it several times and actually prefer camping there more - more privacy.