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Black Canyon of the Gunnison

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Black Canyon of the Gunnison Rock Climbing 

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Location: 38.57701, -107.73208 View Map  Incorrect?
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Submitted By: slevin on Jan 1, 2001


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Looking down to the base of the Cruise gully from ...

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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.

Climbing Season

Weather station 2.8 miles from here

126 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',21],['3 Stars',48],['2 Stars',39],['1 Star',15],['Bomb',1]

Classic Climbing Routes in Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for Black Canyon of the Gunnison:
The Casual Route   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Trad, 8 pitches, 800'   North Rim Routes : SOB Gully (skier's left sid...
Northwest Rib   5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c     Trad, 4 pitches, 700'   Curecanti National Recreati... : Curecanti Needle
The Maiden Voyage aka The Red Dihedral   5.9- 5c 17 VI 16 HVS 4c     Trad, 5 pitches   North Rim Routes : The Checkerboard Wall
Casually Off-Route   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, 8 pitches, 800'   North Rim Routes : SOB Gully (skier's left sid...
Russian Arete   5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a     Trad, 6 pitches   North Rim Routes : Aretes
Escape Artist   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Trad, 7 pitches   North Rim Routes : SOB Gully (skier's left sid...
Journey Home   5.10a/b 6a+ 19 VI+ 19 E2 5b     Trad, Grade IV   North Rim Routes : North Chasm View Wall
Comic Relief   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 8 pitches, 950'   North Rim Routes : SOB Gully (skier's left sid...
Checkerboard Wall   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 5 pitches, 750'   North Rim Routes : The Checkerboard Wall
Movable Stoned Voyage   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b     Trad, 10 pitches, 1300'   North Rim Routes : North Chasm View Wall
The Hallucinogen Wall   5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b A3+ R     Trad, Aid, 16 pitches   North Rim Routes : North Chasm View Wall
Cloaked Interpretation   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b PG13     Trad, 8 pitches, 1200'   North Rim Routes : SOB Gully (skier's left sid...
Cloak & Dagger   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Trad, 6 pitches   North Rim Routes : SOB Gully (skier's left sid...
The Cruise   5.10+ 6b+ 21 VII+ 20 E3 5b     Trad, 12 pitches, 1700'   North Rim Routes : North Chasm View Wall
The Scenic Cruise   5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b     Trad, 13 pitches   North Rim Routes : North Chasm View Wall
A Midsummer's Night Dream   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Trad, 6 pitches   North Rim Routes : North Chasm View Wall
Atlantis   5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c PG13     Trad, 16 pitches, 1600'   North Rim Routes : Prisoner of Your Hairdo Gul...
Stoned Oven   5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a     Trad, 13 pitches, 1800'   North Rim Routes : North Chasm View Wall
Astro Dog   5.11+ 7a 24 VIII 24 E4 6a     Trad, 14 pitches, 2000'   South Rim Routes
Tague Yer Time   5.12 7b+ 27 VIII+ 26 E6 6b     Trad, 15 pitches, 1500'   South Rim Routes
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Featured Route For Black Canyon of the Gunnison
Rock Climbing Photo: Josh Janes, high up on Journey Home, laughs at Cha...

Journey Home 5.10a/b 6a+ 19 VI+ 19 E2 5b  Colorado : Gunnison : ... : North Chasm View Wall
This is a amazingly sustained route that teeters on hard 5.9, easy 5.10 the whole way. Excellent rock and good pro make for an enjoyable day, once past the serious first pitch. This route is borderline grade III or IV. The line is direct and easy to follow, but the sustained nature of it could make the day a little longer. To find the start, look for the Ament's Chimney, the huge cleft that can't be missed. Scramble up the exposed third class to the base of a large dihedral on the left sid...[more]   Browse More Classics in Colorado

Photos of Black Canyon of the Gunnison Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Photos by Topher Donahue  Ryan...
Photos by Topher Donahue Ryan...
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking up canyon from Russian Arete.
Looking up canyon from Russian Arete.
Rock Climbing Photo: Painted Wall, Porcelain Arete, etc.
BETA PHOTO: Painted Wall, Porcelain Arete, etc.
Rock Climbing Photo: Unplanned bivies are da bomb.
Unplanned bivies are da bomb.
Rock Climbing Photo: Sunset in the Black, photo taken from the second t...
Sunset in the Black, photo taken from the second t...
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking towards The Painted Wall.
Looking towards The Painted Wall.
Rock Climbing Photo: The Black.
The Black.
Rock Climbing Photo: At the bottom of the S.O.B.
At the bottom of the S.O.B.
Rock Climbing Photo: Black Canyon of the Gunnison from the south rim.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison from the south rim.
Rock Climbing Photo: Winter in the black.  Taken from the south rim.
Winter in the black. Taken from the south rim.
Rock Climbing Photo: Peg nubs.
Peg nubs.
Rock Climbing Photo: Sunset.
Rock Climbing Photo: Chris Bonington and Terry Burnell on the first asc...
Chris Bonington and Terry Burnell on the first asc...
Rock Climbing Photo: Jini Wortmann in a sea of stone and snow.  South R...
Jini Wortmann in a sea of stone and snow. South R...
Rock Climbing Photo: Chris Nelson, on an early attempt of Chasm View, B...
Chris Nelson, on an early attempt of Chasm View, B...
Rock Climbing Photo: Credit: Drawing by Phil Broscovak.
Credit: Drawing by Phil Broscovak.
Rock Climbing Photo: Bottled courage.
Bottled courage.
Rock Climbing Photo: Black Bug, oh no, no, no....
Black Bug, oh no, no, no....
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking over the abyss beyond the North Chasm View...
Looking over the abyss beyond the North Chasm View...
Rock Climbing Photo: From the air. March 2012.
From the air. March 2012.
Rock Climbing Photo: Rewards after topping out.
Rewards after topping out.
Rock Climbing Photo: Black Canyon sunset.
Black Canyon sunset.
Rock Climbing Photo: International man of adventure John Catto filming ...
International man of adventure John Catto filming ...
Rock Climbing Photo: Brent: awesome climbing ranger and all around cool...
Brent: awesome climbing ranger and all around cool...

Show All 36 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on Black Canyon of the Gunnison Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jun 26, 2016
By jason seaver
From: Estes Park, CO
May 14, 2002
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.
By Anonymous Coward
May 16, 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.
By jason seaver
From: Estes Park, CO
Sep 18, 2002
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.
By slevin
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.
By Joe Collins
Sep 19, 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.
By slevin
Sep 30, 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 least on weekends at high season.
By Charles Vernon
From: Tucson, AZ
Oct 1, 2002
Due to a recent accident where a non-climber fell from the overlook atop N.Chasm View Wall, several routes in the vicinity of the Hallucinogen Wall (apparently a number of routes cross over each other here) will be closed until next spring. I talked to a ranger who made it sound like only the Hallucinogen and a few of the aid routes right next to it will be closed, implying that the free routes to the left and right (perhaps excepting the Diagonal??) are still open, although I didn't specifically ask him about that. He also said that the talus itself below the wall is basically open, e.g. if you wanted to reach the tyrolean to access S.Chasm View Wall, but it is recommended that you not walk close to the water to reach it. Anyhow, if you are planning a trip there and are interested in these routes, check with the rangers before you go!
By Black Canyon Ranger
Sep 19, 2003
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.
By Anonymous Coward
May 10, 2004
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.
By slevin
May 11, 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!
By Anonymous Coward
Jan 8, 2005
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)
By Stefan Griebel
From: Boulder, Colorado
May 17, 2005
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!!!

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By Rob Dillon
Jun 3, 2007
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
By Chris Perkins
From: Buena Vista, Colorado
Aug 29, 2007
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!
By Allen Hill
From: FIve Points, Colorado and Pine
Mar 25, 2009
All three are in the guidebook.
By Ben Griffin
From: Durango, CO
Mar 10, 2012
Anybody know when the road usually opens up?
By John Peterson
May 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"?
By Joe Forrester
From: Palo Alto
Dec 18, 2013
What are some of the better winter routes in the Black? Maximum sun exposure for short days? Any thoughts?
By Vic Zeilman
Jun 26, 2016
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!

Rock Climbing Photo: The Black.
The Black.

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