Elevation: 5,671 ft
GPS: 38.577, -107.732 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 462,773 total · 2,076/month
Shared By: slevin on Dec 31, 2000
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac
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Access Issue: Seasonal Raptor Closures Details


Wallace Hansen: "Several western canyons exceed the Black Canyon in overall size.... some are longer, some are deeper, some are narrower, and a few have walls as steep. But no other canyon in North America combines the depth, narrowness, sheerness, and somber countenance of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison."

Getting There

The Black Canyon of Gunninson is located approximately 250 miles SW of Denver.

South Rim: 15 miles east of Montrose, via U.S. Hwy 50 and CO Hwy 347.

North Rim: 11 miles south of Crawford, via CO Hwy 92 and North Rim Road (closed in winter).


Per Black Canyon Ranger: in 2003, permits are required to climb. They are free.

The Flakes Area Unstable Rock

Note that in 2018, a large feature 250-300 feet tall and probably 40 feet wide on average in the area of The Flakes moved substantially. There is a risk for massive rockfall!

130 Total Climbs

Route Finder - Best Climbs for YOU!

Location: Black Canyon of the Gunnison Change
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Classic Climbing Routes at Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c
The Maiden Voyage aka The Red Di…
Trad 5 pitches
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Casually Off-Route
Trad 8 pitches
5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a
Russian Arete
Trad 6 pitches
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Escape Artist
Trad 7 pitches
5.10a/b 6a+ 19 VI+ 19 E2 5b
Journey Home
Trad 5 pitches
5.10a/b 6a+ 19 VI+ 19 E2 5b
King Me
Trad 3 pitches
5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b
Comic Relief
Trad 8 pitches
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
Checkerboard Wall
Trad 5 pitches
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b
The Cruise
Trad 12 pitches
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b
Cloak & Dagger
Trad 6 pitches
5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b
The Scenic Cruise
Trad 13 pitches
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
A Midsummer's Night Dream
Trad 6 pitches
5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c
Lightning Bolt Crack
5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a
Astro Dog
Trad 14 pitches
5.12 7b+ 27 VIII+ 26 E6 6b
Tague Yer Time
Trad 15 pitches
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
The Maiden Voyage aka The R… N Rim Routes > Checkerboard Wall
5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c Trad 5 pitches
Casually Off-Route N Rim Routes > SOB Gully (skier's le…
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad 8 pitches
Russian Arete N Rim Routes > Aretes
5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a Trad 6 pitches
Escape Artist N Rim Routes > SOB Gully (skier's le…
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Trad 7 pitches
Journey Home N Rim Routes > N Chasm View Wall
5.10a/b 6a+ 19 VI+ 19 E2 5b Trad 5 pitches
King Me N Rim Routes > Checkerboard Wall
5.10a/b 6a+ 19 VI+ 19 E2 5b Trad 3 pitches
Comic Relief N Rim Routes > SOB Gully (skier's le…
5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b Trad 8 pitches
Checkerboard Wall N Rim Routes > Checkerboard Wall
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b Trad 5 pitches
The Cruise N Rim Routes > N Chasm View Wall
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b Trad 12 pitches
Cloak & Dagger N Rim Routes > SOB Gully (skier's le…
5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b Trad 6 pitches
The Scenic Cruise N Rim Routes > N Chasm View Wall
5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b Trad 13 pitches
A Midsummer's Night Dream N Rim Routes > N Chasm View Wall
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Trad 6 pitches
Lightning Bolt Crack N Rim Routes > SOB Gully (skier's le…
5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c Trad
Astro Dog S Rim Routes
5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a Trad 14 pitches
Tague Yer Time S Rim Routes
5.12 7b+ 27 VIII+ 26 E6 6b Trad 15 pitches
More Classic Climbs in Black Canyon of the Gunnison »

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jason seaver
Estes Park, CO
jason seaver   Estes Park, CO
The new guidebook by Robbie Williams is packed full of history, interesting anecdotes, and good essays, and some of the routes included have good descriptions. I enjoy the book very much; but I have to say that the topos are pretty poor in a lot of cases, and REALLY bad in others. For the routes that aren't heavily travelled, make sure you get as much beta from someone that's done the route for the route-finding challenges. If you're faced with a decision on the route between trusting the topo, or trusting your instinct, DEFINITELY go with your instinct. Perhaps this is a "given" anywhere, but my point is that the topos in this book are particularly bad. May 14, 2002
RE: Topos in Robbie's book. Agreed. Schematic topos are not the best for the complex routefinding in the Black. None-the-less, a good first round effort on the part of the guidebook author and publisher. One way to look at it is people who rely exclusively on these topos will get a good feeling for the Black's reputation. May 16, 2002
jason seaver
Estes Park, CO
jason seaver   Estes Park, CO
I'd buy him a beer but I think he may have had enough. His photo-diagrams apparently were drawn in a drunken stupor and then escaped correction in the "editing" phase. If he had spent a little time comparing his worthless topos to his worthless photo-diagrams, he would have realized they have serious discrepancies. This time I'm ranting specifically about No Pig Left. The line drawn on the photo of North Chasm View Wall for No Pig Left follows the route for about half a pitch, then takes a random line way to its left all the way to the rim. Again I feel like I'm comlaining about a meaningless subject, but at the same time it pisses me off that someone felt the need to publish a guidebook to the Black but didn't take the time to get it right. A "first round effort" implies that he put.......well, EFFORT into it, and that doesn't seem to be the case to me. Sep 18, 2002
Just a reminder that you must sign out for ALL inner-canyon travel. It only takes a minute to go down to the North Rim ranger station and fill out a "Wilderness Use Permit" located in a box outside the building and available 24 hours a day (on the South Rim, the permit box is located outside the Visitor Center). Also, fill out the white board outside the building with your name, date and climb- this helps inform others where you will be, and allows fellow climbers to see where heavy traffic might be and choose another climb. I recommend taking a stroll down there the evening before your climb.

Contrary to what it would seem, it is very easy for the rangers to inventory climbers in the Canyon. Part of their daily rounds is to scope the walls for climbers, and to check their tally against climbers who have signed out. I have some friends who didn't sign out, went to try a new route, and later had the rangers meet them on the rim when they topped out. They were cited for not signing out, then asking what they were trying since it wasn't an established route.

As an aside, please be EXTREMELY careful not to dislodge rocks while descending the Cruise Gully. Rocks that are accidently knocked off from the the loose area above the first rap could easily make it down the vertical stretch, and potentially take someone out. Sep 18, 2002
Echoing on Jason's comment, wouldn't the info Steve has posted regarding climber registration been extremely useful to print in the guidebook? If there was one bit of essential information that should have been included in the introduction, I would think this would be it, especially if we could get cited for not doing so. Personally, I have yet to register when climbing in the Black mainly out of ignorance. I have always assumed that the statement, "A permit is required for all inner canyon travel" on the signs at the Cruise and SOB gullies, means that I have to go see a ranger, tell him where I'm climbing, hear his spiel, get a permit that I have to carry, etc. Given that I've typically arrived at the NRCG at midnight and started my approach at 5am, such face-time with a ranger is impossible. Now I hear that all I need to do is go sign my name on a list?

Besides that, I've found that the guidebook is just fine. For an adventure area like the Black, I think the minimalist nature of the topos is perfect and in the tradition of the understated topos in D. Reid's Yosemite guide. I basically expect to have route-finding/locating issues when I climb there. A Rossiter-style guidebook, I think, would be overkill and detract from the Black experience. Sep 19, 2002
Using data from the Wilderness Use Permits the NPS tracks statistics for all inner canyon use (hiking, fishing, climbing, failing to climb). Besides being the law, filling out these permits allows the NPS to accurately count climber use in the inner canyon (we are by far the heaviest user group) which in turn helps our voice be heard by the Park managers.

I suspect climbers who protest the system are lazy, or consider it some vague affront to the "wild and free" Black Canyon experience of yesteryear. Having counted 17 climbers on-route, starting, or exiting the Checkerboard Wall/Maiden Voyage area one fine Sunday this year, perhaps those days are gone for good...at least on weekends at high season. Sep 30, 2002
The days are getting cooler and the temps on the big walls are once again becoming bearable. The rangers at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park are looking forward to seeing everyone back for a safe and enjoyable fall season. If you plan a climbing trip to the Black please give the following some thought:

The Black Canyon has a unique situation when it comes to rescue. At most climbing areas your partner or a small rescue team can climb or rappel to an injured party, lower the injured party to the ground and carry them to a road and awaiting ambulance. This is not the case at the Black. Rescues at the Black all involve uphaul, large numbers of personnel and above average risk to all involved.

Know your partner well before committing to a large multi-pitch route with him or her.

Be realistic when it comes to your physical and climbing ability. No one knows you better than yourself. The Black is not a place for a 5.9 leader to attempt their first 5.10 route. Climb something challenging but stay within your ability level and remember a lot can happen on a big route. You could be forced to become the leader at any point.

Be prepared. Gather as much beta as possible on the route you plan on doing and the gear that you will need for it. In addition to climbing gear remember that thunderstorms and epics are commonplace at the Black. Give some thought to a light rain jacket.

Don't be afraid to bail. The route will still be there a week from now or next year, you may not if you push it too far.

Follow the rules. There aren't many, it makes you look good and makes for a much more enjoyable experience for all involved. Get your permit, they're free.

Have fun and be safe. Sep 19, 2003
If you go to the Black- please stop and talk to the present ranger there, whose name is Brent. He is very interrested in getting feed back from climbers on how the park should be managered in the future. The Black is only going to become more and more cowarded and without climbers' input the park system will simple ruber stamp their policies that exist at other parks- which are sometimes less than ideal.Here is your chance to not just simply bitch and moan (which i find myself doing way to often), but affect some change or hopefully no change- whatever you would like to see happen please give Brent your input. May 10, 2004
Temperatures in late May and early June can be just fine in the Black. As an added benefit, the poison ivy is really starting to leaf out, and the ticks are in full bloom.

If it is really stinking hot, many routes don't go into the sun until late morning / early afternoon (for example Checkerboard Wall, Comic Relief area, Great White Wall area, etc.), so you can hop on these very early in the morning, and by the time the sun hits you will be too committed to do anything about it other than continue climbing (or if you climb fast you will be off them). The shorter climbs at mid-point down the Cruise Gully (er, sorry, "Gulley") like Leisure, Midsummer Nights, etc. will go into shade early afternoon with enough time for the intrepid to complete them before dark (bring a headlamp if you are concerned), although the rock does retain heat pretty well. I know of several energetic civilian climbers who have done link-ups of routes like Comic Relief (early a.m.) with Journey Home (afternoon). Although far from "Hot Flashes" material, this is a classic volume day.

Although considered the "shady side", the bulk of the South Chasm View Wall gets morning sun and on a stinker-hot day can heat up enough to shut you down- that dark rock can get searingly hot. Considering the difficulty "retreating" to the South Rim from a SCVW bailout, you may want to plan car logisitics such that exiting to the North Rim across the tyrolean is an option. Still, SCVW routes may be climbable even in midsummer by heat-tolerant folks who don't realize how much nicer alpine granite is this time of year. There is also well-shaded climbing on the Mirror Wall side of Chillumstone, the Dragon Point Gully, and the few climbs (notably Crystalvision) out of SOFB.

Then again, it could snow in late May / early June! May 11, 2004
Heard the rumor of a new guide by Steve Levin. What's the deal? (and, if true, why a new guide steve, if you think the Williams book is so great) Jan 8, 2005
Stefan Griebel
Boulder, Colorado
Stefan Griebel   Boulder, Colorado
I'm glad Alan and I could provide a little motivation for some real speed climbers. Jared and Ryan went back and did it 8h59m!!!

_a href="http://www.wwwright.com/climbing/speed/"_http://www.wwwright.com/climbing/speed/_/a_ May 17, 2005
Hey folks-

I'd like to put in a plug here for being cool in the N. Rim campground. A recent conversation with folks who oughta know suggests that the climber population has been...taking liberties...with the generally good-natured vibe provided by the powers that be.

To wit:

  • Dogs left tied up and unattended all day to bark and annoy while their owners are livin' the dream downstairs. This is so irresponsible and lame that I have trouble believing it, but apparently it became quite an issue this spring. Further redlining my dis-belief-o-meter, a couple of offenders apparently had the nerve to respond to some pretty low-key admonishment with attitude, as if this behavior represented anything other than craven selfishness.

If you can't bring a dogsitter, don't bring a dog.

  • Climbers cleaning out the firewood stash without kicking in to the suggested 'donation' box. Low.
  • Unsurprisingly, Brent from time to time has to chase people down to secure the campground fees. Yeah, it sucks, it used to be free, and it went up this year. Suck it up anyhow. Here's why:

Considering the nature of the NPS-climber relationship in other parks that shall remain nameless, the North Rim is one of the few jewels of the park system as far as we're concerned. Brent apparently has cut enough slack to climbers that the attention of the higher-ups has been raised. The guy's basically doing his best to keep things cool for everyone up there-- NPS, climbers, campers-- and we need to return the favor. He's not in a position to make this statement, so I'm doing it for him.

The NPS collar only ratchets one way. If things appear unruly to the Black Canyon brass, or their bosses, it's only going to get stricter. Raise your hand if you want to see this happen.

Let's review:

"Follow the rules. There aren't many, it makes you look good and makes for a much more enjoyable experience for all involved. Get your permit, they're free." - Black Canyon Ranger Jun 3, 2007
Chris Perkins
Buena Vista, Colorado
Chris Perkins   Buena Vista, Colorado
I just wanted to Thank Rob Dillon for his comments. I agree with all these points. Especially the dogs. They don't climb, why have one? They just eat up your climbing funds and other peoples food etc....
The Climbing Ranger, Brent is an extremly valuable asset to the Black Canyon. I hope he's around for a while. He gave me and my friend Erik some great route beta.
Thank Brent!
CP Aug 29, 2007
Allen Hill
FIve Points, Colorado and Pine
Allen Hill   FIve Points, Colorado and Pine
All three are in the guidebook. Mar 25, 2009
Ben Griffin
Durango, CO
Ben Griffin   Durango, CO
Anybody know when the road usually opens up? Mar 10, 2012
The organization of this page is a little questionable. There are a lot of distinct areas like Chasm View, but there's also a bunch of routes sitting around in "North Rim Routes". Should we create areas for each piece of the canyon rather than have a bunch of routes without any geographic location other than "North Rim Routes"? May 10, 2012
Joe Forrester
Palo Alto
Joe Forrester   Palo Alto
What are some of the better winter routes in the Black? Maximum sun exposure for short days? Any thoughts? Dec 18, 2013
After many years of work, I am pleased to announce that there is a new guidebook for the Black Canyon....

The Black. A Comprehensive Climbing Guide to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is available through K. Daniels Publishing:


At 512 pages, this full color guidebook is packed with dozens of new lines, detailed approach information and pitch by pitch descriptions, pictures of the walls, first ascent stories, historic photos and action shots, ten essays, and hand drawn topos for some of the better routes in the Black.

A huge debt of gratitude goes to Josh Wharton, Jonathan Schaffer, Ed Webster, Topher Donahue, Kent Wheeler, Steve Levin, Jeff Achey, Robert Warren, Jimmy Newberry and so many others who helped make this book happen.

See you in the Black this fall!

Jun 26, 2016
A little light reading about BITD.
Hope you find it entertaining.

facebook.com/phil.broscovak… Jan 29, 2018
Jamie Estep
Crested Butte, CO
Jamie Estep   Crested Butte, CO

I think your Facebook settings are set to private only. Just checked the link, and I get an it's not available message. Jan 29, 2018
Jamie I'll try to fix that. Thanks for the heads up. Jan 29, 2018
Luke Maechler
Bozeman, Montana
Luke Maechler   Bozeman, Montana
Looking to climb here next weekend. Does anyone know what conditions are like right now in regards to snow and wet rock? Apr 4, 2018
topher donahue
Nederland, CO
topher donahue   Nederland, CO
MASSIVE ROCK MOVEMENT ON SOUTH CHASM! Was just working on a project that starts on a 65 meter OW that forms the opposite (left) edge of the Flakes flake. 3 weeks ago I left 5 Bigbros in there planning to fix them for me and for future parties to climb it without quite as huge of an OW rack. Last 2 days, Jared Ogden and I went in for the send. We approached from above, and on the pitch above the OW, while placing directional cams to get down an angling pitch, I noticed the cams didn’t seem to fit the same as they had 3 weeks earlier. I thought it must just be in my head. Then I started down the OW, and all 5 Bigbros I’d placed had expanded 1 inch in the last 3 weeks! The collars were where I’d left them, but now there was an inch of thread showing between the collars and the tube. We bailed upwards, terrified because we had to climb a full pitch on the feature to get off of it. The feature that moved is 250-300 feet tall and probably 40 feet wide on average. Craziest thing I’ve ever witnessed in 40 years of climbing. Reported to the NPS. Climbs that are threatened are The Flakes and Night is Dark and Full of Terrors. The thing is probably going to sit there for 10,000 years, but it may be good to give it a winter or 2 of freeze thaw to settle into its new position or fall.... May 17, 2018
Boulder, CO
michalm   Boulder, CO
Are we going to have to appeal to endless bureaucrats now to get South Chasm reopened again? Nov 13, 2018