by Eric DeCaria
Late Summer 2008
In the early 1990s, I was 18 and climbing consumed my thoughts. One day Jimmy Dunn – a legendary Black Canyon climber whom I admired for his go-for-broke “rope, rack and shirt-on-your-back” style – walked into the climbing shop where I worked in Moab and said, “Hey man, you want to go to the Black?”
“Sure,” I replied, not knowing what that entailed.
A few days later at 5 a.m., we left the North Rim campground and headed down the Cruise Gully to the start of the Diagonal. Jimmy and Earl Wiggins had tried to free it twice before, only to get benighted and forced to aid to the top. I’d never climbed a big wall and, staring up at the 1,800-foot route, it suddenly sunk in: We were going to climb that in a day with one rope, a few cams and a set of stoppers?
Six and a half hours later, after lots of simulclimbing and some 60-foot whippers (by me …), we’d made the first free ascent of the Diagonal. I looked at Jimmy and instantly knew we had accomplished something proud. That day opened my eyes and forever inspired me to climb in a traditional style.