Rock Climbing in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CO

Are you looking to take your rock climbing to the next level? Then come climbing with Kling Mountain Guides AMGA Certified Guides in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison! No other canyon in North America combines the narrow opening, sheer walls, and startling depths offered by the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The sheer black walls of schist and gneiss plummet as much as 2,700 feet along the 53-mile stretch of narrow gorge. The 14 miles that lie within the park are a raw cut in the Earth’s crust, exposing geologic viscera and illuminating millions of years of history. On the canyon floor, the Gunnison River rips through the gorge as it did 30 million years ago, when it began carving a chasm into the hard black rock of the Gunnison Uplift.

Whatever you activity of choice is, the Black Canyon is best enjoyed in either the spring or fall. April – October is the climbing season. The best periods however are mid April-early July and the end of August through mid-October. These two periods have the most comfortable temperatures for trekking and climbing. The nights are clear, cool, and perfect for gazing at the stars. The days are warm and sunny with temps ranging from the 60’s to 80’s, perfect for outside activity.

Black Canyon Climbs:

Casual Route (Grade II, 5.8)

The Casual Route is great for the first time Black Canyon climber. It is a fun climb on quality rock. When compared to other climbs in the Black Canyon, The Casual Route is shorter with easier (but still not easy) climbing. It gives climbers the chance to dive into the second deepest canyon in North America with out the commitment and difficulty of other climbs

Casually Off-Route (Grade II, 5.9)

The Casually Off-Route is another great introduction to climbing in Black Canyon. It is one grade above the Casual Route. When compared to other climbs in the Black Canyon, The Casually Off-Route is relatively shorter with easier (but still not easy) climbing. It again gives climbers the chance to dive into the second deepest canyon in North America with out the commitment and difficulty of many other climbs.

Lauren’s Arete (Grade II, 5.8)

Lauren’s Arete is named after Lauren Husted, a climber that fell to her death while third-classing near the top. This route is a long arete climb that runs up the SOB Gully. It is a great climb that begins near the bottom of the canyon, only 200 yards above the river. The climb meanders up the long arete for 10 pitches before traversing off to the side bellow the final headwall. It gives Black Canyon climbers the chance be on a grade 3 route without climbing anything harder than 5.8.

Ground Control to Major Tom (Grade III, 5.8)

Ground Control to Major Tom is a south rim route, making it a great route for hot summer days. Similar to Lauren’s Arete, Ground Control to Major Tom gets climbers high up on a Black Canyon wall (at 10 pitches!) with out climbing more than 5.8.

Maiden Voyage (Grade, III 5.9)

Maiden Voyage is the probably the most climbed route in the Black Canyon, and for good reason! This is truly a great route weather you are a “canyon veteran” or a first timer. The route ascends six fun pitches of moderate climbing before topping out on the summit pinnacle. A definite must for any climber!

Escape Artist (Grade III, 5.10-):

Escape Artist ascends five pitches of super fun climbing. Pitch two is the famous “Vector Traverse,” a 5.9 traverse of a fun ledge system. After topping out, the climb is not over. We rappel off the summit pinnacle down a slot system. After finally touching ground, we make our way behind a chock stone the size of a VW Bug! It is then just a short, but steep hike up to camp ground.

Comic Relief (Grade III, 5.10):

Comic Relief is another great Black Canyon climb, just to the right/down canyon of Escape Artist. This climb is an excellent introduction to 5.10 climbing in the Black, combining great rock and a relatively short day. The climb stays in the shade until early afternoon, so it’s a good choice for those hot August days. This is one of the more popular routes in the Black.

Russian Arete (Grade IV, 5.9)

If you are looking to climb for over 1500 ft with out climbing harder than 5.9, than this is a great climb for you. The Russian Arete ascend six pitches of 5.8 and 5.9 climbing, before getting to easier ground. Wait though, because the climb is not over yet! We will climb 500 more feet of 5.3-5.7 before reaching the rim. After hiking back to the campground, we will walk over to the rim and look directly at the line we just climbed. What a day!.

Jounrney Home (Grade IV, 5.10-)

At 1500 ft, Journey Home is one of the best climbs in the Black. The climb consists of sustained 5.9 and 5.10 climbing. The climb never really drops bellow the 5.9 level until the last pitch. Each of the seven or so pitches has its own fun nature, including cracks, roofs, jugs, stemming, an off width, a huge terrace, and face climbing before gaining the canyon rim. A definite must! This climb tops out directly next to the canyon overlook. If we are lucky, somebody might be waiting with cold beverages for us!

The Scenic Cruise (Grade IV, 5.10+)

The Scenic Cruise and its neighbor are undisputed classics! “In terms of setting, exposure, and quality climbing, The Scenic Cruise is certainly one of the best 5.10 climbs in the Black, if not the country!” (from Black Canyon Rock Climbs by Williams) This route climbs for 14 pitches up the North Chasm View Wall before reaching railing and overlook. Give us a call if you are interested in either of these climbs to discuss them first!

Price Includes

  • AMGA Certified Rock Guide
  • Group climbing equipment (ropes, harnesses, all other technical climbing equipment, climbing shoes, first aid kits)

Price Does Not Include

  • Travel to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
  • Entrance fee to Black Canyon National Park.
  • 5% federal land use surcharge
  • Personal park entrance fees if you are NOT traveling in the KMG vehicle
  • Items of personal nature
  • Individual travel costs, delays, etc.
  • Excess baggage fees
  • Personal clothing or gear
  • Alcoholic drinks and personal snacks
  • Hotels before and after trip
  • Recommended Travel/trip cancelation insurance
  • $75 transport charge for single person/ single day trips
  • Guide/ Staff gratuity

Climbing Equipment

  • Harness: This should be a UIAA rated comfortable all day climbing harness with four gear loops. The Camp Laser is our current favorite
  • Climbing Shoes: These should be comfortable all day sticky rubber climbing shoes. While extremely tight sport climbing shoes will work, we recommend the La Sportiva TC Pro.
  • Climbing helmet: This must be a UIAA/CE rated climbing helmet. The Camp Speed is our current favorite.
  • Nylon runner: This needs to be a 48 inch nylon runner.
  • Belay Device: Tube style belay device. We like the Black Diamond ATC Guide.
  • Locking Carabiners: (2)
  • Non-locking carabiner: (2)
  • Small backpack: This should be large enough to carry some food, water, a camera, your extra layer and your approach shoes. If you do not have one, don’t worry. We have packs that you can use. The Black Diamond Hollowpoint works great.
    Approach shoes: These should be comfortable approach shoes. These will be what you wear hiking in to the climb. The La Sportiva Boulder are a great shoe.
  • Socks: Synthetic or wool.
  • Climbing Pants: We recommend climbing in pants. These protect our legs more than shorts, and give us a wider variety of options for temperature swings. The Patagonia Rock Guide are a great option.
  • Synthetic T shirt: This will be what you climb in the majority of the time.
  • Mid weight long: Fleece or wool top for warmth in the chilly mornings over the t-shirt
  • Light weight jacket: This will be worn in the mornings and at the belays to protect from wind. The Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer is a great option.


  • Climbers should be in great physical condition.
  • There are dozens of climbs with different difficulties in the Black. Please get in touch with us to talk about what climb is right for you. If need be, we would like to climb with you prior to climbing in the Black to help ensure that you are up to the challenge
  • If you do not possess these skills or need review, we recommend doing a skills course with us in Colorado or Utah prior to your trip to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CO.


  • Single and multi-day trips available

Registration & Cancelation

  • Unfortunately, due to extremely high demand we have a very strict registration and cancelation policy. We can not transfer you to an other program. WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND PURCHASING TRAVEL INSURANCE! We recommend the TravelEx Insurance Travel Select plan with the Adventurer Plus Pak upgrade.
  • To reserve your spot on a domestic climbing or skiing program please fill out the enclosed application and return it to us along witha 50% deposit if applying more than 60 days out. If your trip/ course starts in less than 60 days please submit full payment.
  • Program fees are non-transferable.
    If notice of cancellation is given in writing at least 60 days prior to the trip start date, you will be refunded your fulldeposit except for a $50 processing fee.
  • If notice of cancellation is given in writing within 59 – 30 days prior to the trip start date, a cancellation fee equal to the deposit amount will be charged. If notice of cancellation is given in writing less than 30 days prior to the trip start date, a cancellation fee equal to 100% of the program fee will be charged.



May – November. Advanced registration required.


Single / multi-day trips


Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CO


1:1 – $480 / $600*                2:1 – $280 / $370*                *for Scenic Cruise or similar routes

Client to Guide Ratio

Up to 2:1 climber to guide ratio


Intermediate to expert