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The Scenic Cruise

5.10d, Trad, 13 pitches, Grade V,  Avg: 3.9 from 187 votes
FA: Ed Webster & Joe Kaelin, 1979 see description for full
Colorado > Gunnison > Black Canyon of… > N Rim Routes > N Chasm View Wall
Access Issue: Seasonal Raptor Closures Details


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, 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.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Peg Traverse.
[Hide Photo] Peg Traverse.
Managed to capture this team up on the Scenic Cruise while we were descending the gully on the approach to the base of the climb.
[Hide Photo] Managed to capture this team up on the Scenic Cruise while we were descending the gully on the approach to the base of the climb.
Classic fashion often found on Black Canyon hardmen in the 1980s!<br>
[Hide Photo] Classic fashion often found on Black Canyon hardmen in the 1980s!
This climb does not suck!!!!
[Hide Photo] This climb does not suck!!!!
Matt on the pegmatite traverse.<br>
Photo: Tyler Casey.
[Hide Photo] Matt on the pegmatite traverse. Photo: Tyler Casey.
The scenic on a perfect Oct. fall day.  Taken from the third pitch of Checkerboard.
[Hide Photo] The scenic on a perfect Oct. fall day. Taken from the third pitch of Checkerboard.
[Hide Photo] Topo.
Shows the obvious splitters with The Cruise on the left and the Scenic Cruise on the right.  Further right, the obvious, huge, left-facing corner on Journey Home.
[Hide Photo] Shows the obvious splitters with The Cruise on the left and the Scenic Cruise on the right. Further right, the obvious, huge, left-facing corner on Journey Home.
The view of Journey Home & Scenic Cruise from Maiden Voyage.
[Hide Photo] The view of Journey Home & Scenic Cruise from Maiden Voyage.
Jj near the top.
[Hide Photo] Jj near the top.
The view of journey home & scenic cruise taken on 9/25. I'm happy to share the original file if this is you and you'd like to print a poster.
[Hide Photo] The view of journey home & scenic cruise taken on 9/25. I'm happy to share the original file if this is you and you'd like to print a poster.
A little higher.
[Hide Photo] A little higher.

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

[Hide Comment] Good description by Charles Vernon. A few additional comments: End pitch 1 under the second roof. It is a poor stance, but it is protected from rockfall (the second pitch could easily generate some). Pitches 3 & 4 can be combined with a 60 m rope. The variation he reported for pitch 6 is not bad. You climb up the corner directly above the belay for about 30' and reach way around the arete to your left to clip a sling. Hand traverse around the arete and back up the the fixed piece (it will be the last piece you can get in for a while). Down climb the ramp and climb up the rounded Pegemite lieback to the block with slings. On pitch 7, there is a chockstone in the crack that can be slung just before traversing right under the roof. On pitch 8, about 30' after passing the bush, leave the wide crack and do a rising traverse left to a good ledge (one person could bivy here). This keeps down the rope drag on the following pitch (plus it is a nice belay spot). Jun 4, 2001
[Hide Comment] To find the Cruise Gully, go halfway between the campground and the ranger station and look for a trail on the South side. About 40' along this trail is a sign saying that this is the Cruise Gully. Jun 27, 2001
[Hide Comment] Wasn't the motto: "A rack, a rope, and a little bit of dope"? -S.L. Jul 10, 2001
[Hide Comment] Alternative pitch description: P1: Climb the entire initial corner, and the broken rock and short corner above in one pitch, belaying at the top-most stance where Cruise diverges. 5.8, 85m, simul-climbing required. P2: Climb right and up, through the 5.9/5.10 bulge and continue up crack to old slings at a stance. 5.10, 55m. P3: Continue up the crack to the end at a ramp right, continue up through pegmatite and the peg traverse, moving left to belay at a spike almost below the crux corner. 5.10, 55+m. P4: Climb the corner, step right and up some wide cracks to a flat ledge with an old bolt, on your right. 5.10, 50m. P5: Step left, up a crack, then lower angle face leading to left side of big flakes. Climb around flakes on left and up and right to 2-bolt anchor. 5.9, 55m. P6: Traverse right, climb short bolted face, then up and right on peg to a bulge with a crack, then up to good ledge below final broken headwall. 5.9, 55m. P7: Traverse left to a crack/corner system, then straight up past small overhangs to broken ledges below the terrace. 5.9, 75m, simul-climbing required. Carefully climb up and right to get top the terrace. Walk left almost to the end to a short class 4 break and the rim. Apr 18, 2002
Bryson Slothower
Portland, OR
[Hide Comment] With a 70 meter rope this can be done in 9 excellent pitches..... May 12, 2002
[Hide Comment] With a 600m rope, this can be done as one pretty darn good pitch. May 22, 2002
[Hide Comment] Please note that the route description in the new Black Canyon guidebook contains a significant error, i.e. the pegmatite traverse is described as going right, whereas we all know it as a leftwards' traverse.

For those desiring a little obscure tidbit, on the original FFA of the Cruise by Dunn & Wiggins they did not climb the now-popularized "crux corner" on the pitch above where the Cruise and Scenic Cruise meet (right after the peg traverse). Instead they climbed what is now referred to as the "Wiggins finger crack". This takes off to the right of the corner, near the horn where people belay after the peg traverse. It is difficult (5.11), sustained, long, and slightly under-nourished in the protection department, but quite good climbing. This is also the purported aid line on the original Kor-Dalke.

Also, AC, with a 600m rope you'll be short.

May 22, 2002
[Hide Comment] 70m cord4-5 pitches3-4 hrs

keys to success:dont stop to look aroundsimul everything!

have fun Oct 30, 2002
[Hide Comment] Or...

60m rope.5-6 pitches, no rope drag.4 hours rim-to-rim.

key to success:stop to savor the experience.have it all ruthlessly wired.

any idea on the roped 2-person time record? can it be done faster than 2:48 (the new record for the Nose)? sure hope so. Oct 30, 2002
Charles Vernon
mind & body in Colorado, he…
[Hide Comment] According the record is 3 and 1/2 hours, by Jim Dunn and Kerry Gunther. Slower than the Nose (of El Cap)--guess that makes this a grade VI ;) Oct 30, 2002
[Hide Comment] Or... a 60 meter cord, ten to twelve pitches, 5 to 10 hours and what a great route in a spectacular setting. Oct 30, 2002
[Hide Comment] Charles, the record you mention is car-to-car. It seems possible that they took 45 minutes to descend the gully and rope up. That would put the route time at 2h45 and faster than the new Nose record. :-)

This route is MUCH shorter than the Nose of El Cap (15 pitches vs. 33 pitches) and MUCH easier (5.10d vs. 5.14). Hans and Yuji would likely be able to do this route (after climbing it at least once or twice) in well under two hours, probably under 90 minutes, and maybe under an hour.

That said, it is more than enough route to kick my butt. We did it in 14 hours car-to-car, I think. Had some trouble finding the easiest way up top and had to do some aid to get off. Clearly I was off route there. A fun adventure route.

Bill Oct 30, 2002
[Hide Comment] The rules should be a little different for speedcliming the Scenic Cruise vs something on El Cap. On the SC both climbers should free climb every pitch. So jugging, short roping, pulling on a piece, etc are out- not that these techniques are at all required to climb this route fast.

Oct 30, 2002
George Bell
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] Or ...

no ropeno rope drag

keys to success:figure out how to get to the base without rapping!don't fall

Personally, I was happy to have a fat rope, loads of gear and a better partner to (barely) see the rim before darkness ... Oct 30, 2002
Max Schon
[Hide Comment] Charle's route description is quite good. Couple of points: combining pitches 4 & 5 isn't that bad. While these pitches are pumpy, there are quite a few rests to recoup energy. On pitch 8, I wouldn't recommend the crack on the right through the nasty bush. The crack on the left has got a little shit in it, but will allow you to make it to the top of the flake in one pitch. Prudent runner use will alleviate rope drag. May 25, 2004
[Hide Comment] Somebody once told me they thought this route was the best climb in Colorado. I don't know about that but it's pretty good. How can their be a best or favorite climb anywhere? Aren't all climbs really different and every experience different? You hear climbers say it a lot: "Thats the best climb I've ever done" . I just think it's a weird statement, especially coming from the mouths of talented experienced climbers. Whoa! I'm babbling, I'm injured and I 've eaten too much percocet . Sorry. Aug 10, 2004
Bosier Parsons
Colorado Springs, CO
[Hide Comment] I climbed the route for the first time with Kerry Gunter on June 11th or so this year. The weather was perfect and we were one of four total parties in the whole canyon. Climbing here in June is recommended if you just watch the weather and pick a cooler day.

We did the route in 9 pitches with a 70M rope, rim-to-rim in 8 hours.

We climbed a 2 pitch variation at the top of the route. Instead of going left, continue up on steep edges and flakes, trending slightly left towards the end of the pitch. Belay on a nice ledge with a right facing flake/corner system above you, and a steep right facing corner above that. This pitch was about 9+ but with somewhat questionable pro, but great climbing.

The last pitch of this variation goes straight up the steep overhanging corner, and steps right around the small roof at the top of the corner (about 10b or 10c, with a fixed wire at the crux). Continue up and slightly left around a corner to a large left facing corner, which leads to a 2 or 3 move hand traverse right to the top of the wall and the walk-off. Aug 14, 2004
[Hide Comment] Upper version of the peg traverse: Not Recommended. It's hard, not real safe, and the second ends up downclimbing 5.9+ face for 20' to the belay, with a factor-2 consequence if the ledge doesn't slow you down. Bootied a 0.75 Camalot, though....

This is the going-up-the-corner-to-the-triangular-roof version mentioned in an old Rock & Ice article.

[2008 edit: All the way up the corner, yes. I heard that George Bracksieck had been told that a variation existed that went that way and insisted that it be noted in the article, despite no one's having any firsthand information on it. Just one among the many reasons to be leery of the old R&I mini-topos...] Jun 11, 2005
[Hide Comment] Rob, are you talking about going up the corner and then traversing out at the fixed nut, or going all the way up the corner to its end and then ???I don't even recall what if anything noticable was up above that corner. Jun 12, 2005
eric whewell
Longmont, CO
[Hide Comment] Classic. This route goes quickly for a competent team. Jul 15, 2005
[Hide Comment] Option for those days that may be crowded, or during the hot season: We started down the gully at 3:00 pm, then headed up the route with light bivy sacks and pile jackets, Goretex etc in a small pack with a couple of cans of Chef Boy-R-Dee and canned peaches, etc. When we got to that big ledge halfway up, we bivvied (spacious for 2) then headed up next morning. We were in the shade the entire time and had no crowds. I've done it both ways. The bivy adds a nice dimension and feel to the climb. Apr 22, 2009
[Hide Comment] What a route! I could believe it as the best in Colorado. So many pitches would be *** at a crag. Jun 4, 2009
[Hide Comment] Adam Brink and I climbed this route last week. Our impressions:

-Simul climbing the first 300' is definitely the way to go.

- Retreating from this route would be epic! There are no fixed anchors and the traversing nature of the pitches would make it difficult, although I'm sure it's been done plenty of times before.

- We found the pitches before and after the traverse to be the crux. Both were well protected where it mattered (although the first 20' of the pitch after the traverse offers no pro). The harder sections involved making a few moves off of insecure fingerlocks/liebacks to bomber jams.

- I didn't lead the traverse, but still found it to be a serious undertaking! Not super hard, but runout and heady. My partner did it with a cool head, no problem, but I imagine that I would have taken a much longer time to commit had I been on the sharp end.

Have fun on this one - it lives up to the hype! Jun 13, 2009
Peter Yakovchuk
Tempe, AZ
[Hide Comment] I think the crux was the beginning of a long 5.10 pitch, right after you climb into a sort of dihedral with finger crack. But probably not harder than 10c. Traverse pitch is not bad, maybe 9+? And the pitch after traverse is definitely easier than the first long 5.10 pitch. Awesome climb. We also climbed it in 9 pitches with a 70m rope. Jun 1, 2011
orin bakal-molnar
pagosa spgs, colorado
[Hide Comment] Just climbed this a couple days ago and I wanted to add a few notes.

We were using the topo from the guidebook along with the written description from here on MP. I have since realized that the pitch numbers do not really match up...I probably should have looked into that a little more before climbing! But here's the deal for anyone interested:

What is described as pitches 1 and 2 here on MP is shown as pitches 1 to 3 in the guidebook. What is described here as pitch 3 is shown as part of pitch 4 in the guidebook. The only reason this matters is that Charles mentions his partner linking pitches 4 and 5 in one monster 200' pitch. It would not be possible to link pitches 4 and 5 as they are shown in the guidebook as it would be about 300' of climbing. Guess you could simul....

Otherwise, I found the descriptions here on MP to be excellent; the route was fantastic and I would highly recommend it. Jun 10, 2011
Scotty Nelson
[Hide Comment] Contrary to the comments here, we found P4 / aka the pitch before the Peg traverse to be NTB / 5.10- as stated on the topo. P6 / after the Peg Traverse was burly, undoubtedly the crux for us. Make sure to take a C4 Camalot on this pitch. Also, if I do the route again, I would like to take a drill kit and replace the horrible rivet on P10. That move is kind of hard and unnecessarily dangerous. If there's a hole already there, there's no good reason not to put a proper bolt in it. May 21, 2012
Eric Shon
[Hide Comment] How are the temps on this route in the middle of summer? Does it get a lot of sun? Jun 28, 2013
Charles Vernon
mind & body in Colorado, he…
[Hide Comment] Really hot and yes.

[edit] Then again, I see you're from Phoenix. Perhaps you'll have a different perspective on "heat." Jun 29, 2013
Robbie Brown
the road
[Hide Comment] Nice of you to respond to a question posed by a climber using the alias erection... Jan 11, 2014
Golden, Co
[Hide Comment] Climbed this weekend.

Gray Mastercam to orange, #0.5-2, doubles in 3, 1 #4.

Bring an extra 2 if you're uncomfortable running out the PERFECT hands on the enduro pitch. May 4, 2014
[Hide Comment] "Dude, looks like the number 4 didn't make it to the rack last night". Never mind how it happened, it is definitely NOT what I wanted to hear at the top of the second pitch. We had doubles through a #3 and never felt uneasy. I lead the crux pitch and certainly saw where a #4 would go, but the crack allowed other sizes all around. Leave the weight in camp. Also, I was unpleasantly surprised a second time when I discovered that the 3rd bold on the face traverse (P10?) was not merely missing a hanger, but the bolt itself was bent downward, making it completely useless. Expect a Lumpy Ridge 5.9+ face move where a bolt formerly resided. Safe but not ideal. May 6, 2014
pete cutler
Des Moines, IA
[Hide Comment] Leave the 4 in the car.
Peg traverse was NBD, no more spicy than any of the other traversing pitches on the route, and none of them felt dangerous. The crux pitches took great gear. Cool route, even the 'easier' pitches were in-your-face, steep, and sustained.

With 70m rope:
Link first 3 with some simul-climbing.
Link 7 to 9 (bad rope drag, back-clean a ton of gear), 9-11, 11 to beginning of 4th class ledge (just barely! had 2 feet of rope left). Unrope and scramble to top from there. Oct 5, 2015
Don Ferris III
Eldorado Springs
[Hide Comment] Great route. I would consider climbing something else if there is more than one party in front of you. The route is not exactly chossy, but the belays tend to be cramped for 2. One could, in theory, bail fairly easily before the peg traverse with a single 80m (maybe a 70m) without leaving much if any gear which is not the most attractive option anyway as you would still have to climb out of the canyon.

A 70m or 80m rope is helpful for linking pitches: simul to three, link 8 and 9, 10, and 11, and simul 12 and 13. I could see not bringing a 4, but I was happy on several occasions to have one. Doubles to 3 otherwise.

Pitches 4, 5, and 7 are amazing! I'd give pitch 5 my favorite. So long and great jamming. Not as sustained as MP and the Topo would have you to believe though. The crux is down lower in the acute corner with shitty, flaky right feet. After that, there are several great rests to break up the awesome climbing.

Pitch 7 is awesome and steep, and if it wasn't for the pod at the crux in which I was able to get a slightly flared knee lock, I surely would have flamed out. I was able to no hands rest for a solid 5 minutes. The crux, for me, was leaving this pod.

I would also note that the 5.8 and 5.9 pitches throughout the route are NOT gimme pitches. My partner and I agreed that some of these pitches could easily be considered 5.10 elsewhere. Sep 28, 2016
Andrew Park
Grand Junction
[Hide Comment] Some shots of our recent trip out there: Feb 5, 2018
[Hide Comment] Guys from Carbondale that were on this Sunday 5/26: I have the gear you left behind, message me with what it was, and I'll get it back to you. May 27, 2019