Type: Trad, 5 pitches, Grade III
FA: Layon Kor and partner, 1960s. FFA Larry C. Schubarth, Tom Austin, April 1980.
Page Views: 26,814 total · 125/month
Shared By: Charles Vernon on May 25, 2001
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

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The Maiden Voyage is straightforward, not very sustained or long, and except for the first pitch, has excellent rock: a great intro to Black Canyon climbing! It is recommended over the Leisure Climb in that respect, though the actual climbing is no better.

Reach the base by heading down the Cruise Gully to shortly past the second rappel. Look for the prominent Checkerboard Wall to the east (upstream). The route is one of the most obvious lines in the Black, as it ascend the narrow west face of the wall (in other words, not the main, namesake face), in a prominent, continuous crack/corner system, the whole length of which lies just left of the wall's SW corner/arete. Bushwhack up from the Cruise Gully to the base, and start in thick trees and bushes.

NOTE [2018 edit]: while I describe this in five pitches to the walk-off ledge, the route is typically done in three to that point with 60-meter ropes these days, combining one & two, then three & most of four.

P1. The worst pitch: identify a dirty wide crack that starts the system, and climb the face to its left until it is easy to get into the system. Belay beneath an overhang whence a clean right-facing corner emerges. The pitch is easy but a bit dirty and loose, and the rock at the belay is poor.

P2. Climb over the overhang past a flake wedged in the crack, and continue up the thin corner (crux), then through an easy chimney to belay on a nice ledge.

P3. Ascend the obvious, wide crack above (5.7), then go around either side of a roof (5.8--if going right, traverse back left under the next roof). Belay on a small ledge below a large dihedral with double cracks.

P4. Ascend the corner and cracks, superb 5.7, and continue to another good ledge.

P5. Continue up the huge easy dihedral to a large ledge with trees. The 3rd Class ascent to the canyon rim begins here; however, the route finishes with a sixth pitch that many skip up the summit block above with an obvious crack and corner over on the left.

Rappel from the summit block 80' back to the ledge from a scary fixed anchor (or downclimb the pitch!).

Now a long ascent must be made back up to the rim; follow the ledge off NW into the left of two wooded gullies and take that all the way up. If you don't mind a bit of 4th Class scrambling and lots of route-finding, (and want to avoid much bush-whacking) it is possible to take the ledge leading left from the base of the gully, and then scramble up a fun 3rd/4th Class ridge to the rim.


Standard rack with perhaps a 4-inch piece to protect the start of pitch 3.


Kurt Johnson
Estes Park, CO
Kurt Johnson   Estes Park, CO
I was with Charles during his second time climbing this route, and even though he had climbed it before, a hold unexpectedly broke 30 feet up the first pitch, causing him to take a 15 foot fall. Just before this happened, he backed up the only piece he had placed so far...a smart move since even on easy terrain, a broken hold and a single piece of gear don't make for a winning combination. Otherwise, it was a fun route with a stellar crux and was difinitely a good intro to Black Canyon climbing, although different than most other Black routes. For those of you familiar with Lumpy Ridge, I like to compare it to "The Pear" of the Black Canyon, an easy (by Black standards) and fun day out; a climb that makes for a relaxing and stress-free day, with no worries about sustained pitches or having to climb fast so that you can make it to the rim before dark. Dec 18, 2001
A very good climb at a moderate level. Use extreme caution on the first pitch - every single hold felt like it could come off, and your belayer is right in the fall line for at least the first part of this pitch.

This climb can actually be done in 3 pitches to the walkoff ledge, if you don't mind a moderately uncomfortable second belay.Combine P! and P2 (uses most of a 60m) and belay at a good ledge. Climb the obvious wide crack, go around the roof, and then climb the first 30 feet of the twin cracks pitch to a small pedestal. Belay here.You can just reach the walkoff ledge from here on the next pitch. Jun 10, 2002
In case it's not clear from Darin's comments, the route cannot be done in three pitches if the second belay is set below the twin cracks. A 60 meter rope will not reach the walk-off ledge.

That said, done in either three pitches, or three and a very short fourth pitch, this route didn't feel like a grade II. I think we were camp to camp in about four hours, as a party of three. Jun 10, 2002
Shoot! The previous comment should read "did not feel like a grade III", hence, it felt like a grade II. My bad, sorry for the confusion. Jun 10, 2002
Cale Csizmadi
Colorado Springs
Cale Csizmadi   Colorado Springs
Climbed this route last weekend as an introductory climb to the Black. It was awesome! P1 is less than par but the remaining pitches make up for it. We did this climb in 5 pitches by linking P3 and P4 together using a 60m rope (ease rope drag by going left at the roof ) and belay at a nice ledge. This way the route ended up taking ~3- 4 hrs car to car. Aug 25, 2004
Given the grade and relative to other climbs of this length and difficultyin the BC, this is a three star route. IMHO. Aug 26, 2004
Christa Cline
Christa Cline  
Climbed this route on Sept. 17 as my first route in the Canyon. Led all but the second pitch. The P2 supposed 5.9 crux felt a whole lot easier than that (dare I say 5.8-?). Considering that was the crux pitch to give this route the rating, and all other pitches being 5.6 or 5.7, and compared with the Escape Artist rated 5.9+/5.10- which is considerably harder than this route, I could easily see the overall rating for Maiden Voyage being a 5.8-. The roof on P3 was a bit awkward, not the most asthetic climbing but added some excitement to the route. Overall, the route has minimal exposure, is not sustained at all, steep only at a few 5.7 sections, a good intro to the Canyon indeed. It is definitely a route that could easily be done in half a day. We made for a very casual and relaxed day and took lots of lengthy breaks on almost every belay station to enjoy the views and the Canyon setting. Sep 22, 2004
A relatively short approach (especially now with the two fixed raps in the Cruise Gully, but watch the poison ivy), straight-forward route-finding, a very short crux, spectacular views and easy climbing throughout make this climb good for either a mellow day or as a good intro to the area. A lot of fun. But do not be misled into thinking that all 5.9's in the canyon are as easy as this climb - they are not! The route is continuously unsustained and the crux was so short and the holds were so plentiful that, at the risk of sounding arrogant, I hesitate to give this climb even a 5.8 rating. That's just the way it felt to me. Sep 22, 2004
Andrew Gram
Salt Lake City, UT
Andrew Gram   Salt Lake City, UT  
Calling this 8- or even 8 is definitely a sandbag. The roof on P2 and the 5.8 roof a bit higher are both harder than most Eldo or Lumpy Ridge 5.8s. 5.9- seems about right.

That said, this is a good route for folks looking to break into 5.9. Once past the first pitch, the climbing is very safe and easily protected. Jun 10, 2005
I'm not sure what's not to like about this route. The approach is easy, the rock is good, the views are superb, and the finish isn't all that bad. The route stays shaded in the morning and is probably doable in the summer.

We ran P1 and P2 together - definitely a win but it makes almost a 60m pitch. Didn't really need the #4 Camalot (found a bomber RP on the right) but the 3.5 and 3 were useful.

The rock on P1 was just fine - no anxiety at all.

Great climb. May 14, 2006
Boulder, CO
Lordsokol   Boulder, CO
Climbed this route yesterday. We did it in three pitches and 2.5 hours. The first pitch really is not that bad at all. Maybe most of the bad stuff has been climbed off by now. The rock on all the pitches above P1 was amazing. Very fun and solid with crack jaming, lieback and face move variations all the way up. The roof above the crux pitch should not be climbed around as suggested in the description. Take the roof, it's only an easy 5.8- move or two to pull it, and worth the "effort". I think it's a better climb than Leisure climb, and an excellent intro to the black. Also, I think that it is probably one of the easiest climbs in the Black and should not be used to judge some of the other climbs there. Journey Home, Escape Artist, even Lauren's Arete are all much higher in difficulty and in grade. Jun 18, 2006
JimYaich Yaich
Denver, CO
JimYaich Yaich   Denver, CO
Great moderate climb; fun and unstressful. I think all of the loose rocks must have been pulled off already; I thought it was very clean (compared to Eldo at least). Not sure that you need a 60m rope to link 1&2 as we had a good bit (20 ft?) of rope left. Great protection and great holds/jams. The walkoff ledge is pretty wide and safe (maybe one spot with a small bit of exposure). Gully is pretty overgrown, so getting up to the top iis a bit of a bushwack.

Most people avoid the Black in the summer ("too hot"), but it really wasn't that bad, even though it was 90+ in Gunnison. Just climb in the morning before the sun hits the wall (you really don't want to climb in the summer sun). Jul 17, 2006
Larry C. Schubarth
colorado springs, colorado
Larry C. Schubarth   colorado springs, colorado
This route was originally named The Red Dihedral, by Kor. FFA Larry c. Schubarth, Tom Austin April 1980. May 7, 2008
Loveland, Co
  5.9 PG13
westy   Loveland, Co
  5.9 PG13
We did it in four pitches....
Had two 70m ropes with us, we were unaware of the two raps just to get to the base of the climb had ropes there already. FYI...unsure when and how long the have been up. They are static ropes and seem to be alright, but ya never know. So be advised that you might want to take two ropes to rap. The route is as explained except that in the Colorado Climbing book it says that there is another last pitch before the final on 4th class rock. At the oak platform, we belayed the final 80 feet to the rap rings, also unknown how long the rope the belay anchors have been up there so we ditched a sling just in case. The hike out was adventurous to say the least, marked by cairn, barely, and the scree up the gully was crazy. All in all, the whole climb from start to finish was fun. Just keep in mind the time it takes to get to the actual start of the climb to the seat of your vehicle. Jun 4, 2008
Catonsville, MD
dinglestyle   Catonsville, MD
The best moment for me on this route was the third pitch. I broke right under the overhang and went through a small bush around a corner on to the main Checkerboard Wall, and wow the exposure went up a few notches with the river below and just a few hand-jams to the belay ledge. That was a 4 star moment despite the bush. By the way I wish I brought one larger cam for below the overhang on that pitch, maybe the new BD 5, which is close to the old 4. Not a necessity but a nice luxury. Feb 20, 2009
Ryan Ray
Weatherford, TX
  5.9- PG13
Ryan Ray   Weatherford, TX
  5.9- PG13
We also did this in three pitches to the large ledge. It's worth it speedwise to cut out that extra pitch. Link 1 and 2, then take pitch 3 past the roof section to the small but comfortable belay stance above the twin crack section. Good natural gear for an anchor...1 to 2" for gear at the belay. Then run pitch 3 to the big ledge up top. We used a 60m for this linkup and it was plenty.

If you're on the faster side...start with Casually Off Route in the morning then run over and do this one for a second route. We did that and finished back at the car around 1-ish. Considered a third but wound up driving to the Fisher Towers instead. Aug 24, 2010
Jeremy Werlin
Cedaredge, CO
Jeremy Werlin   Cedaredge, CO
I like to bring a new Camalot #5 and #4 for the 3rd (or 2nd pitch if you run 1 & 2 together). The climbing is not too hard where you need them (5.7+-5.8-), but it keeps it safe. Jun 10, 2011
Jason Cook 71
Jason Cook 71  
Maiden Voyage is a very clean route for The Black. Put up by Layton Kor in the sixties, it must have been a lot of fun at that current time in climbing history. No rescue team, many unknown routes, and very few climbers present at that time. It is not hard and has some exposure if you want it (variations). The crux moves are 5.9 but short. Aug 5, 2012
Fritz Nuffer
The Western Slope
Fritz Nuffer   The Western Slope
There's a newly-loosened block at the start of P3 (splitter wide crack). The bottom of it forms a #1-2 horizontal that used to be good for anchor building. You can't tell that it's loose until you make a couple moves up the pitch. Oct 7, 2012
Pink Thunder
Sacramento, CA
Pink Thunder   Sacramento, CA
No way this is 5.9. We kept waiting for the crux to appear, and it never did. There are a few 5.8 moves on this, such as the second pitch overhang, but the feet are great and it never really gets that hard.

Lotta fun, though. It'd make a great date climb. Nov 4, 2013
WARNING...this is a Black Canyon REVERSE sandbag. If this is your first route in the Black, don't even begin to think that it represents a typical BC Grade III 5.9...it's more like a Grade 1.5, 5.8+.
Having said that, it's a fun little outing with great views of the Scenic Cruise. Jun 3, 2014
We linked pitches 3 and 4 with a 70m rope. We tried to link pitch 5 and the summit block, but we were a few feet short of the summit.

Some beta on how fast this route dries: the day we climbed the route, it rained heavily between 3:00 AM and 8:00 AM before the sun came out. We got on the route at 11:30. Most of the route, including the P2 crux, was dry. Pitch 1 was slimy and dirty, but it sounds like it might always be slimy and dirty.

The trail back up to the rim seemed quite reasonable to us, even in somewhat muddy conditions.

We brought a #4 and a #5 C4, and that felt about right for the third pitch. May 11, 2015
I know it's a long shot, but missing a BD #2 and #3 from the weekend of 10/3 on Maiden Voyage. Please be a kind soul, and PM me. Oct 7, 2015
D. Snyder
Golden, CO
D. Snyder   Golden, CO
I'll echo Donini's comment, not representative of routes in The Black - more like a short afternoon cragging in Eldo. Damn fun though. We easily linked pitches 1&2 and pitches 4&5 with a 70m rope. A 100' 5.9 pitch can be added on the summit block too (must've been done many times). Just walk around the summit block toward the Checkerboard Wall until standing below a left-facing corner. Ascend this to a small roof and then to an intermittent but protectable finger crack in the arete. May 22, 2016
Michael Underwood
Broomfield, CO
Michael Underwood   Broomfield, CO
We linked Maiden Voyage to King Me (a worthy combination), but we were at first a bit disoriented and didn't know where King Me was located with respect to Maiden Voyage. I've posted a beta photo with the King Me entry; just scroll through the photos, and you'll find it. You'll be standing near a huge boulder just left of pitch 5 on Maiden Voyage. Look around until you spot the formation I boxed in red. While you can't use this formation to find the start of the route, you can at least use it to get moving in the correct general direction. Jun 8, 2017