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Black Sheep

By Emily Stifler

Wharton entering the crux (5.13) of the Black Canyon's hardest free pitch to date, and (below) one move later, the real business.
In April, Josh Wharton and Mike Pennings completed The Black Sheep(5.12 A0), a new route in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado.Originally Pennings' vision, the line took the two three years tofinish. The seven-pitch route takes the prominent Plunge Pillar on the North Chasm View Wall, and went mostly at 5.10 to 5.11, with one pitch of 5.12 A0. In May, Wharton   freed the A0 section at 5.13, establishing what is likely the Black Canyon's most technically difficult pitch.

The route is very good, said Wharton, and that's not just because I have first-ascent-itis. Wharton returned to the crux fourth pitch, and worked out a sequence for the steep crimpy climbing. He made five separate trips to try to redpoint the entire route, finally succeeding on May 10 with Jason Nelson. The two swung leads for a team-free ascent.

There's a tendency to over-rate climbs that are done in adventurous places like the Black, said Wharton, not the case with this route. It required all the focus and attention to detail it takes for me to do a very hard sport route, something I'd never experienced beforein the Black.
Wharton lives in Rifle, Colorado, and has climbed over 60 routes in the Black Canyon.

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