The Scenic Cruise is one of the very best routes I've done in Colorado. It ascends one of the steepest and biggest cliffs in the state, offering great jamming and devious, exciting face sequences. Factor in the adventure factor and sublime setting, and...you just have to climb it for yourself!
This is a detailed description replete with beta. If that bothers you, well, you know what to do....
[Edit: the current guide came out after this description was written and the pitches don't track precisely.]
Temperature-wise, spring and fall are the best times to do the route. May and September are probably the most common months. April and October may offer better temps, but also shorter days and less stable weather. November through March is reserved for hardpersons, June is dubious, and summer is strictly for sundogs.
The Scenic Cruise is actually a major 3 to 4-pitch variation to The Cruise
, a route of 12 or so pitches that ascends the 1700' SE face of North Chasm View Wall. The Cruise
was first ascended by Layton Kor and Larry Dalke in 1964, and christened the South Face. In the mid-'70s, Earl Wiggins and Jim Dunn free-climbed the route in 6 hours, and consequently re-named it "The Cruise
". Three years later, Ed Webster and Joe Kaelin discovered the Scenic Cruise variation, thus avoiding a 5.10 offwidth pitch but adding spicy 5.10 face pitch. Amazingly, Wiggins then made the second ascent of the whole line with this variation-- in an hour and a half, free-solo!
To find the start of the route, descend the Cruise Gully. After the second rappel, continue following the base of the rock, down past the 4th class trough area that leads to the large unmistakable gash of Ament's chimney. Left of that, hundreds of feet up, lie the huge right-facing corner of Kachina Wings and the large left-facing corner of the Journey Home. Further left is the diagonal crack system of the Dylan Wall, and the more or less vertical cracks of the Cruise and Scenic Cruise.
The route begins a large, right-facing corner/groove, about 200 feet high, below the main crack systems. There is a flat rock and a bunch of poison ivy at or near the base. Above the corner is a low-angled, ledgy section; above that, the obvious diverging crack systems of The Cruise
(left) and Scenic Cruise.
Only a couple of the belays are fixed and there are a LOT of different ways to pitch it out. What follows is suggested for those who will be at or near their limit on this climb. 9 or 10 pitches is reasonable for a stronger team onsighting the route.
P1. Ascend the arete left of the corner, then step in and climb easily for a full ropelength to an uncomfortable belay.
P2. Climb over a 5.8 roof and go up over broken grassy ground, past fixed slings to belay on the last ledge below a much steeper wall section. The Scenic Cruise splits from The Cruise
here. We simul-climbed these pitches, as do a lot of parties.
P3. Lead up and right over a 5.10- roof, and continue up the crack to a belay in a small inset. Or continue to belay on a ledge 50 feet higher...many do pitches "3, 4, and 5" as two long ones.
P4. Exit the inset on the left and jam the continuous crack for 100 feet to a small stance with some fixed gear, fantastic 5.10-.
P5. Jam the unrelenting but excellent hand and finger crack with many 5.10 sections, a harder version of the previous pitch. Considered the route crux by some. Belay in the pegmatite band.
P6. This has the infamous Pegmatite Traverse, which rejoins the Cruise--a classic Black Canyon pitch. The easiest path moves up from the belay and then slightly left, avoiding the more prominent corner w/fixed pin directly above. Ascend a short 5.9+ crack in the pegmatite (3 friend helpful), then hand-traverse inobviously left on slopers, also 5.9. This achieves a stance on a down-slanting ramp. Reach back and sling a horn above the slopers: your best protection through the pitch's upcoming crux. An obvious flake/arete lies left of the ramp; climb that and continue up another crack to a fixed belay with slings around a block.
A variation goes up into the corner/inset and traverses out and then down to the ramp at a fixed sling: reputedly harder, but easily aided with the sling. Either way, do not go all the way up to the top of the corner as this apparently leads to super sketchy shit.
Also, note that the Williams guidebook erroneously describes this as a rightward traverse, although the topo has it correct.
P7. Traverse 15 feet left and ascend a 5.10+ corner with sustained stemming and liebacking, some dubious rock, but adequate gear (generally considered the route crux). Make an awkward traverse right under a roof, and then ascend a hand crack in another corner. Above this continue up two sections of wider 5.8 (or belay, if out of gear and/or gas).
The FFA apparently climbed a thin seam through pegmatite to the right of this.
P8. The nice flat belay ledge has cracks leading up from either end, and both are climbable at about 5.8/9 with reasonable pro and quality (though the right has a nasty bush). Either way, above these continue up and left on easy ground and stretch the lead past a corner with several wedged blocks to a good ledge.
P9. Go left on the ledge and make an exposed move to get to an alcove behind a massive flake. Chimney up and right to a new bolt belay. Clever rope handling is necessary on this short pitch.
P10. Follow a narrow, exposed ledge straight right, then angle up and right past three bolts with several insecure 5.9 moves. The last bolt is missing a hanger. Continue up and right through another pegmatite band to a nice belay ledge below a flared chimney/dihedral.
P11. Make an awkward 5.9+ move into the chimney, continue to a ledge, and head left for about 30 feet to the next crack system; belay where convenient.
P12. Head up the crack/corner (with a fixed #3 Camalot) for a very long 5.9 pitch and arrange a belay. A variation which is often described as the standard line climbs gradually up and left from the ledge above the chimney on scary 5.9 face and flakes and rejoins the line.
P13. Continue up the crack system, trending slightly right (5.8 or 5.9). Or, take an overhanging 5.9+ corner over to the left. Scramble to the top!
The Black has a reputation for loose rock which is as a whole is well-deserved, but this route is pretty solid throughout, especially on the lower crack pitches. However, this is probably the most traveled route in the Black, so start early and wear a helmet!
P.S. the Peg Traverse has been oversold in some places as a death pitch. It's definitely spicy but not too hard or runout. It is definitely not as dangerous as P1 of Journey Home
, to compare to another Black trade route.
The amount of gear can vary depending how hard you climb and how much you intend to link pitches. A good rack for a team at or near their limit will be nuts, a couple micro-cams, a double set of camming units from fingers to a #2 or 3 Camalot with a single (new) 4. Stronger leaders will not need the #4, but it does come in handy in a few places (unfortunately most of them are on the crux pitch). A pink tricam or RP placement can help protect the peg traverse.