With a length of 48 miles, from the dam Blue Mesa Reservoir downstream to the middle of the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, the Black Canyon provides experienced climbers a tight narrow canyon with some of the tallest vertical wall climbing in Western Colorado. The Painted Wall, at 2,500 feet is the tallest vertical wall in the state of Colorado. The National Park contains only 12 miles of the Gunnison River gorge and contains 145 routes, eight are rated at 5.8; twenty-one are rated at 5.9, the remaining climbing routes have ratings between 5.10 and 5.13.
Within the National Park, a designated wilderness area, the parks Climbing Management Plan is the foundation for planning a climb. The main climbing season is from the middle of April to the early part of June. The fall season begins in September to early November. Climbers should be aware for the following challenges:
- The National Park has entrance and camping fees.
- To climb and travel in the canyon a wilderness permit (free) is required.
- There is no gathering of wood for fires.
- In the inner canyon there are no campfires.
- Pets are not allowed in the inner canyon, are allowed only in designated areas, and have to be attended to at all times within the Park.
- Littering is not tolerated, visitors are encourage to follow the Leave No Trace™ 7 Principals.
It is noteworthy that the park service closes climbing access in the Black Canyon area due to nesting raptors in the spring (seasonal). Crossing the Gunnison River for climbing access can be an issue with careful planning required.
Upriver from the Park is the Curecanti National Recreation Area, consisting of the three reservoirs (Blue Mesa, Morrow Point and Crystal) in the Black Canyon. The Morrow Point reservoir is the location of the Curecanti Needle:
Curecanti Needle: 3 Routes
The Curecanti Needle is located about 5 miles below the Blue Mesa Dam. Access is from Hwy 50, see MountainProject.com: Curecanti Needle.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Climbing:
Marmot Rocks: 4 Routes
Located in the Park along the South Rim Drive, between the Painted Wall and Cedar Point Overlooks, on the south side of the road. Parking at the Painted Wall Overlook, hiking along the road until it bends to the right, then a trail to the boulders. The boulders are visible on the south side from the road. At the Visitor Center there is a brochure on bouldering at Marmot Rocks.
Mountainproject.comn: Marmot Rocks Bouldering
South Rim Rock Climbing: 25 Routes
The South Rim features longer routes with colder temperatures and easier access than the North Rim.
Mountainproject.com: South Rim Routes Rock Climbing
North Rim Routes: 91 Routes
North Rim features terrific and terrifying routes of a shorter length with warmer temperatures.