Rock Climbing

a rock climber clings to a gray rock wall underneath a large overhang
Rock climbing at Black Canyon is not recommended for beginnings. Above photo is taken at Alimony Wall, Steppin' Out 01.

NPS photo

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park offers vast opportunities to expert rock climbers. The canyon is extremely deep and narrow. At its deepest, the canyon is 2,722 feet deep (Warner Point). The Painted Wall is the tallest vertical wall in Colorado, with a height of 2,250 feet. Around North and South Chasm Walls, where the majority of the climbing activity takes place, the canyon is 1,820 feet deep.

 
 

Routes

Climbing Closures

Black Canyon is a full-on adventure climbing area. Detailed climbing information for Black Canyon climbs is often difficult to obtain or non-existent. A few guidebooks are available and the National Park Service retains copies of topos and route information turned in by first ascent parties. Visit the South Rim Visitor Center or North Rim Ranger Station for information.

Of the 145 climbing routes that are found in Black Canyon Rock Climbs or are known by the park:

  • 8 are rated at 5.8; only 4 of these have good information available and see regular ascents
  • 21 are rated 5.9, 5 of which are aid routes, and only 6 of which see any significant climbing activity
  • The other 117 climbs have ratings between 5.10 and 5.13 and many require aid.

Many climbers have said that the ratings here can be deceiving.

Climbing Safely

All of the climbs within Black Canyon are multi-pitch, traditional routes located in remote areas within the canyon. Climbing routes in the park are very deceiving. Often times you will find extremely clean cracks and excellent lines. However, in an instant the choss appears or you get off route and quickly go from a fun climb to a very dangerous situation. Loose rock is extreme. Be sure of your holds before you commit. Climbing under other parties brings the danger of being in the firing line of falling rock and gear. Always wear a helmet!

There are several things you can do to minimize risk while climbing, including:

  • Carrying enough gear to stay out overnight if needed
  • Carrying the necessary equipment to endure an unexpected bivy
  • Climbing within your ability level, especially if you are new to climbing in the Black Canyon

Do not be afraid to back off if you get in over your head. If you have to bail, the climb will be there next week or next year. Know your own abilities and that of your partners.

Rescues

Rescue in the Black is very involved. Lowering off to an awaiting ambulance is not an option.The park has rangers trained in high angle rescue, but rescues here take time and are extremely technical in nature. Be prepared for self-rescue! Being benighted due to underestimating a route is not cause for rescue at the Black Canyon. The National Park Service does not guarantee rescue.

More Information

Peak climbing season at the Black Canyon begins in mid-April and runs through the early part of June, and from mid-September through early November. Environmental hazards found at the park during these time periods include frequent afternoon thunder showers, fully leafed out poison ivy, and approach gullies inhabited by ticks.
North Rim Climbing Routes: In addition to a permit, the North Rim Ranger Station has a whiteboard that is used as an informal way of letting other climbers know who is on what route. It prevents multiple parties from piling up on routes and is a quick way to judge climber activity in the canyon.

Back to Inner Canyon Use

Last updated: October 25, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

102 Elk Creek
Gunnison, CO 81230

Phone:

(970) 641-2337 x205

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