8/30/2011

The Black Streak 5.10b - Albion Basin, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah

While temps in Salt Lake are in the 90's, high above the valley I'm freezing as I belay my partner Tom on the first pitch of the Black Streak, 5.10b. It's 3:00 in the afternoon in the middle of August, but I'm tucked away between an 800' limestone wall and a icy bergschrund. Intermittently little pieces of rock tumble down the wall hinting at Tom's progression on this alpine classic.

Devil's Castle 10,920 ft
Located at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon in Albion Basin, the Devil's Castle formation looms dark above a colorful mix of lush greenery and wildflowers.
Taking the prominent black streak close to the center of the formation, the Black Streak takes a mostly straight line up through a mix of great to horribly bad limestone. Rising 800' feet from the continually growing talus field at the base, the route has everything from techy slab sections to steep pocket pulling and eventually tops out on the ridge line not far from the summit.  The crumbly rock combined with spontaneous or goat fueled rock fall and the elevation gives it a feeling of being "out there" although you are only a 40 minute drive from downtown Salt Lake City.

As we climb we pass hanging gardens of ferns, columbine, Parry's Primrose and many other flowers I cannot name. Although the guide recommended bringing a full rack to supplement the bolts, we rarely placed any additional gear, instead preferring to just keep moving.  

After a few hours from leaving the car we reached a large ledge one pitch from the ridge.  Smelling strongly of goat piss I was more than happy I had drawn the final pitch leaving Tom to enjoy the pungent odors below.  All too soon I was on the summit ridge belaying Tom to the top, both of us wishing for more pitches but still psyched to enjoy the beautiful scenery on the trail back down.  

After a leg pounding descent through loose talus we finally reached the treeline and hiked through a natural flower garden.  At it's peak, the wildflower display in Albion Basin is one of the most beautiful sights I've seen anywhere.  Fields of flowers are in every direction with blooms of every hue blending together and competing with one another for visual attention.  The buzz of bees is all you can hear in some areas while others the sound of water gurgling through a narrow brook seems to be speaking in a language that I cannot grasp.  

It seems that ever few minutes we stop to look at something or another and I realize that as much as the climbing was the impetus for being out here today, this is really why I am here. Although we usually focus on the climb itself or it's rating, sometimes the journey is more important than the destination.


Albion Basin

Columbine

Columbine and Lupine

Fossilized Snails

Parry's Primrose





Starting Pitch 1, 5.10a


Base of Pitch 2, 5.10b


Albion Basin from Pitch 3, 5.8

Cecret Lake

The 5.4 Choss pitch.



Pitch 5, 5.10a



Topping out after pitch 6, 5.9

The summit ridge with Cecret Lake below.

The view into American Fork Canyon and Mt. Timpanogos in the distance.

The hike out



Lupine and Indian Paintbrush




Colorado Columbine


Yellow Columbine

The Black Streak 5.10b. Devil's Castle, Albion Basin. Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
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