Trip Report
The Silver Surfer rides again. Tales from the land of diminishing returns.
Saturday October 2, 2010 7:51am
Having finally finished the story of the Nose in Winter for Alpinist 32 (Praise be to Katie Ives) I was feeling powerfully nostalgic when a young friend and climbing buddy pressed a suggestion.
"Wanna go to the Black?" he asked.
"It's been a while" I said.
"It'll be Grrreat" he assured.

Credit: philo
After determining that the People's Republic wasn't going to go up in flames from the devastating Four Mile Canyon wildfire I allowed myself to get talked into an adventure...

"It'll be Grrreat" he assured.
"It'll be Grrreat" he assured.
Credit: philo
My partner Stephan Reiser is a German born whirlwind of exuberant excesses who wasn't even born when I was a good climber and was only 5 when I retired after doing my last Black Canyon route. Some of you may recognize him from one of those "Lives less Ordinary" Scarpa ads in the back of Alpinist 21. Even though he is a young gun he is as competent a trad climber as anyone I can think of. Must have something to do with learning to climb in the Frankenjura.

Once talked into going I really wanted to leave Boulder by mid day Friday so as to provide time for a good sleep and an early start. But that was not to be as Stephan felt compelled to first evacuate from his mountain cabin. He started to waffle.
"Maybe we should go next week" he said.
"I can't next weekend" I replied.
Plus I didn't know if I could get myself jazzed up enough again. No it was now or...
Consequently we didn't get on the road till after 10:00 pm.

Philvo the infamous Silver Surfer
Philvo the infamous Silver Surfer
Credit: philo
Stopping in Dillon around midnight to tank up Philvo the infamous Silver Surfer. This is the 1988 Volvo wagon that Survival and the Cozmic Banditos used when they did their RMNP tour.
This never say never rig is a ceaseless source of amazement to me. Always starts, always stops, never uses oil and goes where I point it without question or complaint.


Credit: philo
Loaded up and rolling on. This would be the first time I had ever approached the Black by driving the I-70 corridor. Living in - near by - Gunnison meant crossing the Black Mesa not the Continental Divide. This would be the first time I would go into the black with short hair. Bearded and pony tailed with de-riguer dew rag was the way I typically looked in the past. This would be the first time I would go in carrying a chalk bag (only second time to ever carry cams, the first time being my last route there). This would be the first time I would go to climb in the Black with someone half my age. But more significantly it would be the first time I would be going back into the Black to climb since nearly dying in a vicious lightning storm during an early ascent of the Hallucinogen 21 years earlier. In fact, in all that time - though I had numerous compelling offers to - I hadn't even been to visit the North Rim since.


Party all the time
Party all the time
Credit: philo
This trip involved a lot of firsts for me. Like actually following the rules for a change. Granted it was a different time in the 70s & 80s, a wilder westier time, even still BITD I broke the rules. I wonder if there is a statute of limitations? This would be the first time I ever signed into the Black. The first time I paid for camping. Which was a little annoying as I used to think of the place as my personal back yard, regularly spending weeks at a time without paying a dime... Fortunately my Golden Access Passport for handicapped allows me half price camping which eased my pain.
Even if it occasionally raises questions about why someone with my kind of Passport would be going below rim to climb.

Passes? We don't need no steenkin' passes
Passes? We don't need no steenkin' passes
Credit: philo
The sign in procedure is quick and easy and if you can't handle it you should stay in he gym. Not only does this non onerous paperwork allow the remarkably non invasive climbing rangers to keep track of inner canyon users, it also provides quantifiable data showing that climbers are the primary user group. Very valuable to us climbers when it comes to management planning.

After the official formalities were dispensed with we pulled into the campground around 4:00am.
Sleepy campers patiently abided my 3 lap tour looking for an open camp site. No such luck. So we just pulled in by another vehicle and biv'd on the ground by the bear box. By 4:20 I was medicating myself to bed. The uninhibited stars blazed brilliantly in the clear night sky. Constellations, old friends from past excursions, marched in the night. I fell asleep remembering that when you are below rim you literally observe the stars come into and go out of view across a very narrow slice of sky.

All the hikers below are not rock throwers. <br/>
It's the ones on the rim...
All the hikers below are not rock throwers.
It's the ones on the rim you have to worry about.
Credit: philo
In the morning I took the rim walk to reminisce at the overlooks. See if I can see me any of them hikers below. Sort of pay my respects if you will.

Credit: philo
The view down river towards the Painted Wall or how I spent my college education.
My first climb in the Black and in fact my first route over 5 pitches for that matter was the probable 2nd all free one day ascent of the Southern Arete of the Painted Wall with John "JP" Pearson in 1977. JP was a real crazy cat with the same wild hair character as my youthful companion of today - 33 years later.

Credit: philo
The walk between the down river and up river overlooks. It seemed a wee bit intimidating this time since I knew all too well what lurks right over there just 10 feet away. I was so amazed and delighted to see that the powers that be hadn't sanitized the place to my it safe for Fido and little Willy. If a pet or person wants to phuck up and go for the big one they still have all the same opportunities they did decades ago.

Credit: philo
This is the top out for the Hallucinogen where 21 years ago I crawled out from the brink of electrical extermination. And retired from climbing to have my knee replaced for my 12th surgery. Rehab and raising babies became the focuses of my existence for several years.

Credit: philo
A close up of the top out shows fresh signs of travel. Someone is obviously still getting after it.

That is a lot of vertical exposure.
That is a lot of vertical exposure.
Credit: philo
The impressive view straight down the Nose of Chasm View. My mind is flooding with a tsunami of memories.

Credit: philo
A very cool view through a hole in the rim to the river.

Credit: philo
So back in camp I run into the blokes whose site we had invaded. John from Scotland, on the left and Gordon from South Africa on the right were really great sports about it and a blast to meet. They had succeeded on an ascent of the Scenic Cruise the day before and were leisurely packing up. Graciously they let us take possession of their campsite. Turns out they are now both living in Boulder and, of all things, recognized the Philvo from around town. Well the conversation turned to routes and ancient history. I don't know who was more jazzed, them for having me sign their guide book or me for having been asked. I think me. We had a really pleasant chat over coffee while Stephan still slumming in his sagging hammock slept in late...

Credit: philo
OK, so Stephan is ready for an Alpine start by the crack of noon. He hadn't told me that he had been marathon welding at work and had not slept in almost 3 days. That combined with the 8 or 9 beers he nursed on the drive down had him moving a little sluggishly. Good thing I had driven.
Our plan was to do Comic Relief as a warm up on Saturday then do Moveable Stoned Journey on Sunday. If my leg would hold out that is.

Credit: philo
Credit: philo
By 1:40 pm we somehow and in spite of ourselves actually get to the trail head. It is ridiculously late and my sense is that our plans for the day will have to be fluid and changeable.

Credit: philo
Today will really be about this very particular body part. A shakedown test of sorts. It might be hard to tell from the picture but I had decided to walk down in my climbing shoes. You could ask "what were you thinking"? But clearly I wasn't, thinking. In the old days we often walked in climbed and walked off in our EBs to save weight. I guess I was just thinking of reliving past gory. Or possibly paying penance for being allowed to live through the Hallucinogen ascent. Back in the day however I climbed in my EBs at least six days a week. The shoes and I were one. Not so the normally comfortable Tradmasters I had on now.

Credit: philo
And this is where the adventure begins in earnest, for me anyway. The first test is just getting down the SOB uninjured. Nervous doesn't begin to express how I felt at the top of the SOB. My leg had become increasingly dodgy. Last year I had experienced a horribly painful hyper-extension injury and had spent the subsequent five months in deep anxiety, concerned that amputation or at best fusion was in my imminent future. As it turned out I had not shattered the Tibia as I had feared but rather had ruptured the Saphenous nerve. That is the large trunk nerve that runs from your toes, up to and through the knee, all around the hip and into the central nervous system. It's function is to tell your body what your leg is doing. My injury had blown a core shot in it right below the knee. Now due to either regeneration or degeneration it was sending utterly bizarre signals. Without any warning it would totally spaz out. Going into a vigorous sewing machine leg while just walking or even sitting. I had to flat foot everything because I couldn't hold the stress of arching through my toes. It was disconcerting when it occurred but I had to know if I could be confident enough to be where I was headed.

Credit: philo
About the time the vegetable danger made its presence known I was wondering if my heart was into the adventure anymore.

Credit: philo
It started to feel stone cold and heavy.

Credit: philo
But we were now better than 2/3rds of the way down. Right by the start to the Casual Route. It is here when you absolutely recognize just how much you would really rather climb out than slog out the WOS (Walk of Shame).

Credit: philo
And it was a baller blue bird day. If only we had started at a reasonable hour.
It was pretty doubtful by then that we could get it together enough to fire the Comic Relief and not risk a chilly benighting.

Credit: philo
A very compelling landscape. A Siren's song for the adventurous. A candle for a moth.
I am beginning to understand why I kept myself away for so long. This spooky place knows me and speaks to me in mysterious groans and sexy whispers. But it was Already after 3:00 pm and all we really had a chance to go for was the Casual Route. And at my pace even that would probably be pushing it too much. The back of my mind didn't relish the ignoble notoriety of having to have the rangers go get the old fool off of a route called Casual. At least there was still tomorrow.

Credit: philo
It was time to go - for now. Four of my toes resembled steak Tartar and the rest were bruised. What was I thinking. The leg had definitely made it's weak and wobbly way down. Would it, could it, and come to think about it should it, make it back up? How embarrassing it would be to end up needing a liter rescue. I bandaged my feet and pushed up.

Credit: philo
I know only to well just how long it is back up the SOB. At least going up is less stress for my knee than going down is. I found myself taking pictures of cool looking rocks just to linger in the lovely but infrequent shade a little longer. Up among the sandstone layer at the rim I paused to look back somewhat dissatisfied but content to have been Black in and back out.

Credit: philo
Back at Camp 2 it was time for fluid replacement therapy and a trip to Crawford for dinner. A full belly, a good sleep and an early start for a return to the deep steep. Just what the doctor ordered, me not to think about. When he asked about any routes on it I had to remind Stephan that "There taint no walkup the Crawford Needle"!

Credit: philo
I so love the country around there, I have always wanted to own land around there. I was amazed at all the memories I was tapping into. During the bleary eyed early morning drive in to the Black I surprised myself by instinctually recalling the time saving back road short cut out of Crawford to the Black. On the way down the SOB I was struck with the realization that I certainly had a hand (or more correctly feet) in the establishing of what is now a clear and obvious descent. It was encouraging that the vast increase in traffic during my two decade absence had not left the SOB Gully a desert. Other than numerous cairns and a more discernible path it was much as it always was, loose, dangerous and grueling. The way down (and up) follows most of the original route. It tickled me to all of a sudden completely recognize a slab of rock or a given hold on the way down. It will be a long time before those paying community service restitution build stairs like they have in Eldo. The Black is no place for Prancers.

Credit: philo
I ran across Kent Wheeler an old friend from the Gunnison Daze. He reminded me that his first trip to the Black was many years ago with Jim Nigro and I. Unlike me Kent is still getting after it. On the day of our "hike" Kent was putting up another 5.11 r in the Black. The man has a passal of high quality FAs in the canyon. It was a real treat to run into each other after so many years.

Credit: philo
Stephan is still an unmovable lump in a hammock so I walk down to Mr Ranger's neighborhood to make my acquaintances. I had heard so many great things about the stewardship of the Black under climbing ranger Brent's tenure. I introduced myself and slobbered praise upon them for not being tools and not sanitizing the experience. I explained that this was my first time back in two decades. I also confessed that I had been a real renegade bandito back in the day, and that this was the first time I followed any of the rules. They thanked me then looked at the books.

Credit: philo
Apparently past transgressions do not have a statute of limitations in the wild west.

Actually it was all in good fun. That is until the LEO couldn't find the keys. Ha ha ha, joke's on me.
The good natured LEO was so young he had no idea why Brent was approving and to some degree encouraging him to cuff me. He asked "So why am I doing this". "For past transgressions" I replied. "Like what" he queried. Laughing I replied "You really don't want to know".
I think it is apropos that this pic (mug shot) has the upper pitches of the Painted Wall as a back drop. In some way I will always be drawn to the Black Canyon and held prisoner by the magic of the Painted Wall.













Credit: philo
Well Stephan was telling me that his 4 year old's platypus was getting lonely for his boy and Stephan wanted to go home all of a sudden. I could have channeled my old hard man persona and gone for it but honestly my feet were messed up so I quietly agreed and accepted this as a successful shake down trip. I must be growing up.

Credit: philo
Feeling warmer and fuzzier he settled in to the Silver Surfer for the scenic cruise home.

Credit: philo
But first we had to wait for the other two turkeys on the road.

Credit: philo
I started thinking about yams and stuffing. Mmmmmm road kill anyone.

Credit: philo
Feeling a wee bit stiff and achy I opted to stop at Penny Hot Springs in Redstone.

Credit: philo
Fluid therapy. A good soak and a good beer.

Credit: philo
Sufficiently shriveled it was time to hit the road again.

Credit: philo
The Eisenhower tunnel was expecting 30 minutes delays so Stephan suggested we drive over the Continental Divide on the Loveland Pass road. Another Deja Vu for me. I grew up on that road but it had been decades since I had gone that way. It was so stunning to be up there instead of stuck in a tube.

Credit: philo
The traffic on the eastern side of the tunnel was easing up and we had merged in easilly for the last leg home.

Credit: philo
Pulling back into the Boulder bubble we saw a huge billowing pillar of smoke. Crap I thought they were gaining containment. Turns out it was a second independent wild fire north of the Four Mile Canyon burn.

Out of the frying pan and back into the fire.



This really was a memory lane excursion for me. I certainly would have preferred to pull off a route or two rather than just a hike. But the important thing for me is that I have finally broken through a self imposed blockade. I actually got up off the couch to go back to the Black to climb again. Who d a thunk?
If my leg can be counted on I know I will be back below rim soon. The prosthetic knee is well past it's warranty and entering the diminishing returns phase. So I am again feeling it is now or never.
I had convinced myself once long ago that it would be OK if I never returned to the Black Canyon. I was wrong...

  Trip Report Views: 2,798
philo
About the Author
philo is a trad climber from Somewhere halfway over the rainbow.

Comments
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Comment on this Trip Report
Brokedownclimber

Trad climber
Douglas, WY
  Sep 14, 2010 - 11:12am PT
Old Guys Rule!
ydpl8s

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
  Sep 14, 2010 - 11:26am PT
Old transgressions eh? If they only knew, you'd still be in the slammer today! :-)

By the way, what ever happened to JP?
perswig

climber
  Sep 14, 2010 - 12:39pm PT
Grace, humor, maturity, humility.
Beautiful TR (and the pics were nice, too.)
Thanks.

Dale
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Sep 14, 2010 - 12:52pm PT
The freekin' SILVER SURFER rides again!!!!

Oh what a sweet tale. Good pictures and a wonderful write up.

You have a future as an author Philo!

Just seeing that car puts a warm spot in my gut. Thanks brother.
Bruce
philo

Trad climber
Is that the light at the end of the tunnel or a tr
Author's Reply  Sep 14, 2010 - 01:06pm PT
You have a future as an author Philo!
Yeah I can write about my past as a climber. he he.

Just seeing that car puts a warm spot in my gut.

The PhilVo ran like a teenager in heat.
It still gets great gas milage and doesn't loose to much power going up hills either.
It is a off road capable cargo carrier with the heart of a sports car.


Thanks brother.
Bruce
My pleasure ya old Trad Dad. Anytime you are in town remember the door is open and the keys are handy.
I really would like to get your way for some cragging now that it is cooling down. Or maybe meet at Cochise's Stronghold. ??????
Fluoride

Trad climber
West Los Angeles, CA/Joshua Tree
  Sep 14, 2010 - 01:08pm PT
Seriously great TR, even w/o the climbing. The memories make it special. Makes me want to live in Colorado, just to have all that within a day's drive.
Daphne

Trad climber
Northern California
  Sep 14, 2010 - 01:21pm PT
Thanks for this TR. It had me engrossed in your experience. I'm looking forward to following your next adventure.
TrundleBum

Trad climber
Las Vegas
  Sep 14, 2010 - 04:41pm PT
That is one of the best trip reports I have ever read !

philo:
Your writing is very engaging, a joy to read.

Solid ride
a solid partner
a solid adventure...

~~~~~~~~~~

"This really was a memory lane excursion for me."
You churned up a plethora of memories for me with your writing.

"..would have preferred to pull off a route or two rather than just a hike."
Well considering:
"The prosthetic knee is well past it's warranty..."

After reading your trip report I did not really see your adventure as a hike.
More like the 3rd class section somewhere between pitch(s) 3270 and 3280.

Thank you for taking the time to break us all off a little piece.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Sep 14, 2010 - 04:51pm PT
"The prosthetic knee is well past it's warranty..."

Needs to be taken care of for sure. But, I still prefer to use my parts rather than just protect them.

And the truth is that as we "mature", our adventures need to be reformatted and tailored in a different way.

I have told many people "the good news about getting old is that the easy shitz gets interesting again!" And it's true. I prefer to enjoy wherever I'm at rather than stressing about where I'm not.

I still want to push myself, but that means different things and ends up in a different place too.....

Anyway babble babble, Phil rocks hard in my book.

bluering

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Sep 14, 2010 - 04:59pm PT
Good to see you get out there. Looks like a great area, climbing or not.

Cheers!
Ezra

Social climber
WA, NC, Idaho Falls
  Sep 14, 2010 - 05:07pm PT
Nice write up, you'll get up a route next time!
eeyonkee

Trad climber
Golden, CO
  Sep 14, 2010 - 05:30pm PT
Nice, Philo. Nice to see you Back in the Black!
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Sep 15, 2010 - 10:31am PT
Great TR! Hope to run into you on the North Rim sometime.
noshoesnoshirt

climber
Arkansas, I suppose
  Sep 14, 2010 - 06:20pm PT
Beautiful. Thanks.
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
  Sep 14, 2010 - 06:22pm PT
Super-Now that is a TR I can identify with.
Fritz

Trad climber
Choss Creek, ID
  Sep 14, 2010 - 07:46pm PT
Philo: Great read! Now you are "warmed-up" for next year.

It is great "next year" country in the Rockies!

Zander

climber
  Sep 14, 2010 - 09:54pm PT
Maybe the most mellow, conversational trip report ever.
Thanks,
Zander
Jeremy

climber
  Sep 14, 2010 - 10:08pm PT
Bump for a great TR!

Thanks Philo! Good stuff...and I feel your pain Brother!


Take care!

Jeremy
Mark Hudon

Trad climber
Hood River, OR
  Sep 14, 2010 - 10:42pm PT
NIce one, Philo!
SteveW

Trad climber
The state of confusion
  Sep 14, 2010 - 11:09pm PT

Great Stuff, Philo!
You'll be back!!!!
philo

Trad climber
Is that the light at the end of the tunnel or a tr
Author's Reply  Sep 15, 2010 - 09:46am PT
Thank you all so sincerely for all the wonderful feedback. It means a great deal to me that you appreciate the ramblings of a fetid mind. I have a lot of phun writing and find deep gratification in the acceptance my words find here on SuperTopo. Thanx all!
Ihateplastic

Trad climber
It ain't El Cap, Oregon
  Sep 15, 2010 - 10:22am PT
What is it they say about golf? A nice walk spoiled. I can assure you I have felt that way about climbing sometimes. Often we get so much more out of just being in our old haunts and feeling the freedom of the mountains (hills) with a good companion than we do scratchin' and clawin' our way up some piece of unforgiving rock. Nice TR , nice photos and, I bet, nice memories.
philo

Trad climber
Is that the light at the end of the tunnel or a tr
Author's Reply  Sep 15, 2010 - 11:11am PT
Having gotten my rocks off

the ground,

Credit: philo


Credit: philo


I was feeling better balanced.


he he he.



ydpl8s

Trad climber
Santa Monica, California
  Sep 15, 2010 - 11:25am PT
Hey Phil, that definitely "took me back" and felt all too present and true at the same time. You are an inspiration, with all of your tribulations, a trip down SOB (and back up!) is quite a feat that can't be appreciated by those that haven't been there. You had me feeling that stomach pit drop as you approach the edge through the deceiving shrubbery, hearing the river so far below!

It seems like you might have actually climbed some of that stuff if your partner had not been trying to make it on so little sleep.

Anyway, congrats on a great story, can't wait for the article in the new Alpinist. Will there be any pics or toons?

Peace, Scott

(Did you see my question about JP?)
alpinerockfiend

Trad climber
the Magic City
  Sep 15, 2010 - 11:27am PT
excellent tr. thanks for the read!
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Sep 15, 2010 - 11:32am PT
Again I find myself returning to a cool write up, pondering different parts.

It is ridiculously late and my sense is that our plans for the day will have to be fluid and changeable.

Philo, the master of understatement, or master of the obvious! Heading into the Black at 2 PM and thinking that maybe the plan has changed? Whew......
philo

Trad climber
Is that the light at the end of the tunnel or a tr
Author's Reply  Sep 15, 2010 - 08:40pm PT
Ydpl8s, I haven't seen JP in many moons. According to the PostMaster he is doing well. He is a dad of all things. Contact Jimmy for a contact #. Cheers and thanks for the kind words.
I laughed when I posted the cuffing picture knowing full well it would raise at least one WTF?
TripL7

Trad climber
san diego
  Sep 15, 2010 - 09:16pm PT
excellent TR. Thanks for sharing.
crunch

Social climber
CO
  Sep 16, 2010 - 12:52pm PT
'A Siren's song for the adventurous. A candle for a moth."

Yes! A great read Philo; thanks.
cowpoke

climber
  Sep 17, 2010 - 09:53am PT
dang. a story of true adventure told so well. thanks.
philo

Trad climber
Is that the light at the end of the tunnel or a tr
Author's Reply  Sep 17, 2010 - 10:09pm PT
photo not found
Missing photo ID#170367

I think I am being followed.
Lolli

Mountain climber
...silence, like a cancer grows
  Sep 18, 2010 - 06:34pm PT
What a nice story!
;-) I like the Philvo the infamous Silver Surfer...
hooblie

climber
from out where the anecdotes roam
  Sep 21, 2010 - 01:32pm PT
have to agree with all the positive responses, and i'm glad to see it so well received.
they say life is an arc, eh? ... not that all the rewards are on the ascent.

there's plenty of twists and turns on the backside of any good roller coaster,
and with luck, a few loops and whoopty doos to boot.

the key is to maintain the momentum with a wide grin
and ease it on into the station with grace
StahlBro

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
  Sep 23, 2010 - 11:12pm PT
Nice TR Phil. Sometimes you just go with the flow and everything turns out the way it should. Important thing is to just get out there in it
Jello

Social climber
No Ut
  Sep 24, 2010 - 12:46am PT
Wonderful words and pics, Philo. "Taking the gear for a walk" is a time-honored tradition with true adventure climbers - young or old. As you point out so well there's great joy in just heading out with the tools in a pack on your back that will allow you to climb into (and out-of) trouble.

Glad your knee is holding up! Thanks for sharing the memories. Your story brought images, sounds, smells and tastes of the Black back to me, too. These are the things we can keep with us.

-BlackCanyonJello
philo

Trad climber
Is that the light at the end of the tunnel or a tr
Author's Reply  Sep 24, 2010 - 11:13am PT
Wholly WOW! I am not sure what to say.
To have my TR praised by BlackCanyonjello is for me like winning a Pulitzer.
Jeff you are one of my most significant role models. Your alpine accomplishments were and are an amazing inspiration to all the Gunnybunhardmenofyore and the whelps d'jour.
It was your absolutely wonderful and captivating story A Solid Companion that so inspired my writing. Thank you so much you ROCK!
You should consider reposting your tale as a TR.

Humbledbyhisherophilo
philo

Trad climber
Is that the light at the end of the tunnel or a tr
Author's Reply  Jan 19, 2011 - 06:21pm PT
It has been almost four months since my ill conceived idea to walk into the Black in my climbing shoes. The nail of my right big toe is only now nearly ready to fall off. Talk about deep bruising.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
  Jan 19, 2011 - 06:24pm PT
Take heart daddy of Silver Surfer, my finger is still semi-phucked too, and that was last April!!

Love that Jello post, and it obviously pleased you!
scuffy b

climber
heading slowly NNW
  Jan 19, 2011 - 06:32pm PT
A pleasure to read.
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