Tips for The Black

Having done a smattering of the weekend warrior routes on either side of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, here are a few things that I've noticed...

Late in the day, shady, still sweating in a t-shirt
  1. It's always hotter down there. Even the north-facing routes in the vicinity of the Astro-Slog rappels get sun until around 1pm in late spring. Your car is the coolest spot you'll be in all day.
  2. Wear Long Pants - Even though it's warm, long pants are your friend vs grainy stone and poison ivy. When Nate and I went down the 'Prisoner of your hairdo' gully in late spring, we were wading through huge thickets of poison ivy. But with long pants, we didn't notice a thing.
  3. Free Camping - Can be found just outside the park entrance on the north and south rims, where the land is owned by the BLM.
  4. Free Entrance - to the south side's NPS area, requires getting past the gate before 9am on weekdays, and probably earlier on weekends.
  5. Yes, both sides are the same height - When looking across the canyon, it's easy to convince yourself that the other rim, towering above, must be taller than the wall you're on. It's not.
  6. Ending another wandery pitch
  7. Bring LIGHT approach shoes - The gully approaches don't require much scrambling or downclimbing, so an ultralight pair of old running shoes will be a lot lighter to climb back up with, and wont slow you down on the approach. 
  8. Know your line - Routes can be wandering and have dead-ends that look like the way. Take a picture of the wall and use your digital camera screen to figure out where you are and where you are going.
  9. The worst rock - is often the stuff immediately in contact with the pegmatite layers. It's darker and looks better, but it got "over-cooked".
  10. Bring many slings - Every route I've been on has splitter pitches and meandering pitches, and it is often hard to tell from one belay where your next will be. Lots of slings are your friend, quickdraws are not.

My Black Canyon Climbs - In order of Quality

Scenic Cruise - One of the nation's best 5.10 routes. 4:55 (second time up it) with Scott - I lead the 2nd half in evening shade.

Journey Home - 25' of 5.9 R (but not X) face climbing leads to 4 or 5 pitches up a  steep corner, consistent at 5.10- and easy route finding.

Astro Dog - The canyon's classic 5.11?  I'll have to climb Stoned Oven to see which is better. Mostly 5.10 with 3 harder pitches. Leave water and food for yourself at the rap anchors you use to descend, then you can encounter these prizes on the return up the wall.

Comic Relief - Right Side - If you take all the right-hand (harder) variations, you can climb 5 of the route's 6 pitches completely different than the left-side options.

Trilogy - Excellent crack and face climbing, bakes in the first half of the day. Neither climber should fall on the 5.10- traverse on p1.

Atlantis - A LONG route, in the sun all day. Lots of face climbing on good rock.

The Flakes - 1800' of mostly 5.10 crack climbing. Oh yeah, and that chimney is 120' of no gear. Good rock, but legitimately x rated.

Checkerboard - The first couple pitches are forgettable, but the last couple are fun and exciting. Eldo-style in the Black.

The Dylan Wall - Some chossy roofs but very good rock at the crux pitch.

Escape Artist - A couple good pitches, nice and shady most of the day.


Wednesday 5/18 - Pics from Patagonia

Movies, photos and free prizes. New routes and 2nd ascents / first free ascents in Chile and Argentina.