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Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Red Rocks
September 4, 2017
Canadian Rockies Ice Climbing
September 29, 2017

The Trad Climber’s Paradise

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is one of Colorado’s finest multi-pitch adventure climbing destinations. Located between the towns of Montrose and Gunnison, Colorado, no other canyon in North America combines the narrow opening, sheer walls, and humbling depths found in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Simply stated, the Black is one of the most awe-inspiring climbing destinations in the world.

It also happens to be blessed with a fine selection of classic climbs at accessible grades, and offers climbers the unique experience of descending into the canyon, prior to climbing one of it’s routes. Commitment, therefore, is an essential ingredient in a successful day of climbing at the Black.

Expert, Certified Guides

We offer guiding and instruction with IFMGA Mountain Guides & AMGA Certified Rock Guides in the Black Canyon insuring you receive the most thorough and competent guiding available. Our guides have climbed and guided in the Black Canyon more than any other guide service in Colorado and our expert knowledge of the canyon and it’s routes is unmatched.

 2024 Dates

May – October

Arranged on a Custom/Private Basis


$599 for 1:1
$399 for 2:1

Scenic Cruise

$769 for 1:1
$499 for 2:1

rexerNo Hidden Fees

  • Guiding and instruction with an AMGA Certified/Trained Guide
  • All rock climbing gear (harness, helmet, rock shoes, etc.)

Black Canyon Select Routes

The best seasons to climb in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison are September/October and May/June.  July and August can also offer great climbing conditions and weather, though we try to get earlier starts on the climbs during this time to avoid afternoon thunderstorms and the higher temperatures which typify the season at that time of year.

Below are just a few of the routes that we recommend in the Black Canyon.  Many other options exist and don’t hesitate to contact our office to discuss which routes are best for you.

  • Comic Relief (III, 5.10)
  • Escape Artist (III, 5.10-)
  • The Russian Arete (IV, 5.9)
  • Maiden Voyage (II, 5.9)
  • Lauren’s Arete (III, 5.8)
  • Casually Off-Route (II, 5.9)
  • Journey Home (IV, 5.10)
  • The Scenic Cruise (IV, 5.10+) requires add’l fees

Rock Climbing Equipment List

BackpackDescriptionGuide's Pick
The Osprey Mutant 38 represents an excellent all around performer for Ice Climbing trips in the Ouray Ice Park and surrounding San Juan backcountry.
Water BottlesDescriptionGuide's Pick
We recommend wide mouth Nalgene (or similar) water bottles for the majority of our programs. Two 1 liter bottles is the standard for days in the mountains.
Personal FoodDescriptionGuide's Pick
Lunch begins when breakfast ends and ends when dinner begins. Bring what you like to eat and consider the length, relative difficulty, weight, and other factors when deciding what to bring in the mountains with you. A variety is always best. Don't be afraid of Mr. T.
SunscreenDescriptionGuide's Pick
Essential for all of our programs. SPF 30 would be our minimum recommendation. Typically a 4 oz. bottle will suffice but consider trip length when deciding how much to pack.
Belay DeviceDescriptionGuide's Pick
A belay device is a required item on any of our technical climbing or mountaineering courses. While not necessary to have the Guide ATC specifically, we think owning one of these offers additional versatility as you progress and gain additional knowledge about the various levels of functionality provided by a device of this type.
HarnessDescriptionGuide's Pick
The BD Aspect Harness is a great all around performer for all types of climbing - ice, rock, alpine etc. The adjustable leg loops and integrated ice clipper loops make this a solid investment as your do-all harness.
Locking CarabinersDescriptionGuide's Pick
We recommend at minimum 2 - 3 personal locking carabiners on our climbing courses and any technical private guided program. We prefer classic screw gate carabiners over other types of locking mechanisms.
Climbing HelmetDescriptionGuide's Pick
A versatile, hybrid-shell helmet for lightweight protection in any discipline, the Vector features excellent ventilation and a ratcheting adjuster.

Training & Follow Up Climbs

As always, being in excellent physical shape is an important component of our our programs. A good mixture of cardiovascular fitness, muscular fitness, and especially core strength will help you to maximize the potential rewards that are possible on a great climbing trip.

Specific to Rock Climbing – it is a great idea to experience rock climbing in a gym first prior to your first experience outside!

Before Your Trip

Familiarity with basic climbing principles such as knots, belaying, rappelling, and other climbing techniques can be very helpful for our Intro Course participants.  Though not required, prior gym climbing experience will help you to acquire and assimilate the information covered in our rock climbing course progression as quickly as possible.

Follow Up Climbs

Black Canyon of the Gunnison: Getting There

The Black Canyon is located in the just east of Montrose and Delta, CO. The North Rim, where many of our guided trips begin, is about 3 hours from our office in Ouray. To access the North Rim climbing routes you will travel through Crawford, CO to the North Entrance of the park.

plane-icon The best option for flying to the area is to fly into Montrose, CO. Many airline options exist, and because Montrose is a major airline and travel destination there are typically many one-way flights to choose from.


suv-icon You will likely need a to organize a rental car to drive to the Black Canyon, from Montrose. Typically in the summer months you can choose any type of vehicle but in the spring and winter months please consider that weather can change rapidly in the mountains so an All Wheel Drive or Four Wheel Drive vehicle is worth considering. Below are some approximate driving times to get to the Black Canyon.

  • Denver, CO: 4 hours
  • Ouray, CO: 3 hours
  • Montrose, CO: 2 hours


hotel-icon-2 We typically recommend camping at the North Rim Campground.


Program Policies

Registration & Cancellation

Advance Registration is required for this program.  You have the option to either call our office and register via phone or utilize our secure Online Reservation System.  All participants must read and sign an Assumption of Risks/Liability Waiver and agree to our Reservations and Cancellations Policies.


  • Guiding and Instruction with an AMGA Certified/Trained Guide
  • All rock climbing gear (harness, helmet, rock shoes, etc.)



  • Transportation to the Black Canyon
  • Hotel costs before, during, or after the program
  • Guide gratuity
  • Lunch food or snacks
  • Personal hiking/climbing clothing
  • Trip Cancellation Insurance (recommended)
  • Costs associated with weather delays or other variables beyond the control of San Juan Mountain Guides

Book This Trip!

We Offer Online Registration

  1. Click on Book This Trip
  2. Select your Program dates
  3. Enter your Info and Payment


Or, call 800.642.5389 to register