Black Diamond athlete and tech rep J.P. “Peewee” Ouellete frees 30-meter 5.13+ roof crack in Canyonlands National Park
Black Diamond athlete and tech rep, J.P. “Peewee” Ouellete recently freed what is being considered one of the hardest cracks in the nation, a 30-meter roof crack below the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park. Below is his report on the climb, as well as photos from Andrew Burr.
I first heard of the “Underworld” in the Canyonlands a couple years ago when Rob Pizem did the first free ascent of The Army of Darkness (5.13). The route looked sick, so I instantly tried to find where it was, but until this fall, this underground roof crack world has been kept secret.
After a few years of begging, Rob finally gave up and showed me the ultimate project of the Underworld: The Necronomicon. Rob, worked on that route for a couple seasons and came really close to sending, but the super-thin-hand-ringlock-finger-bar section always shut down his best tries.
Since last summer I’ve been kinda secretly training for this roof. I did a lot of roof crack boulder problems in Vedeawoo and Yosemite, and worked on a roof project at home. I also did a couple laps on a classic 30-foot roof crack at home.
The first time I went down there, I was awestruck… It was the best unclimbed crack I’d ever seen. It is such a proud and unique line. Definitely the mother of all roof cracks.
After my first 2 days on the roof, my neck, shoulder, shins and hamstrings were so sore I had to take 3 days off. But I was confident I could do the climb at some point during my trip. The 20-foot super-thin-hand-ringlock-finger-bar crux section was not too unfamiliar for me since I had used the finger-bar technique on a few other route in the past year. For a vertical crack of this size I would normally do ringlocks or thumb-stacks, but in the roof these are not really effective and especially painful. The finger-bar is basically like an armbar (the offwidth technique) but with the fingers. It is really insecure but worked well for the crux of Necronomicon. One thing that I knew for sure is that one of the cruxes for that route would be to find partners to belay me…
On my 3rd trip to The Underworld, when I finally found a partner to go back down there, I was feeling more confident already and I almost climbed it on my 7th try with pre-placed gear. I finally pinkpointed the route 4 days and 3 tries later. Although I was really happy with my performance I was not totally satisfied with the pinkpoint ascent. I thought that Necronomicon, this Book Of The Dead, deserved a better style. But the idea of cleaning the gear after every try was kinda overwhelming. The day after the pinkpoint send, my friend and photographer Andrew Burr came to shoot the climb. He made me do the crux section 8-10 times that day. And that made me really confident that I could do it placing the gear. I went back 3 days later with my friend Marat and did it on my second go that day, placing the gear (and back cleaning between the burns).
I want to say a special thanks to Rob for sharing this route with me. I really appreciate! It means a lot to me. Also thanks to Marat for the belay duty and to The Wideboyz for the encouragement and inspiration.