Climbing at the Black Canyon

The Black Canyon is extremely deep and narrow and is a full-on adventure climbing area that is only meant for expert climbers. The deepest section of the canyon, Warner Point, plunges 2,722 feet. The Painted Wall, at 2,250 feet, is the tallest vertical wall in Colorado. 

Peak climbing season is mid-April to mid-June and late August to early November. There are 145 known Black Canyon climbs. The ratings start at 5.9 and go up to 5.13 (29 climbs are rated 5.8 and 5.9). All of the climbs within the Black Canyon are multi-pitch, free and traditional routes located in remote areas of the canyon. The majority of climbs take place at the North and South Chasm Walls, where the depth of the canyon measures 1,820 feet. 

Please note: a free wilderness use permit is required for all inner canyon activities (including day hikes, climbing, camping, and kayaking), and is available at the North Rim Ranger Station and South Rim Visitor Center. The National Park Service website provides detailed rock climbing information. Detail information for each climbing route at the Black Canyon is available on the Mountain Project website.

Ice Climbing

The Black Canyon and nearby Curecanti Recreation Area make Montrose a remarkable ice climbing destination. 

Ice climbs are rated on a scale of Water Ice 1 (WI1) to Water Ice 6 (WI6), with WI6 climbs being the most difficult to ascend. Most of the ice climbs within the Black Canyon and Curecanti Recreation Area’s Blue Mesa area are rated W13 to WI5. Most of the climbs in the canyon require one to know how to rappel, lead, manage multiple pitches, as well as approach and descend climbs safely.

Gandalf’s Beard, one of the Black Canyon’s most popular routes, requires a 3.5-mile approach on skis, but rewards climbers with breathtaking winter views and solitude. 

Some of the most popular routes around Montrose include: 
• Gandalf’s Beard: two pitches, WI3-5, Black Canyon National Park
• Shadowfax: two pitches, WI3-4, Black Canyon National Park
• 268 (Train Route): one pitch, WI4-5, near Cimarron Visitors Center at Curecanti Recreation Area 
• Curecanti Monster: five pitches, WI4-5, Curecanti Recreation Area

A free wilderness use permit, available at the park’s South Rim Visitor Center, is required for ice climbs in the Black Canyon National Park. No permit is required for ice climbs in the Blue Mesa area (Curecanti Recreation Area).

Spotlight on Montrose