The Black Canyon of the Gunnison stretches for more than 50 miles across western Colorado from its head, now buried under Blue Mesa Lake, to its confluence with the North Fork just east of Delta. The deepest and most spectacular canyon section is preserved in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
The Black Canyon is a forbidding arena for the rock climber. This is not a place for the novice or beginner nor the safety-conscious, bolt-every-four-feet sport rock climber. No, the Black, as climbers call it, is a place to experience all adventures, thrills, and chills that climbing offers.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that the easier routes at the Black are any easier that the hard ones. They are not. It is easy to get lost on big walls, and you may find yourself climbing on unplanned 5.11+R face. There are multi-pitch routes rated 5.13 R! Plan your visit accordingly and choose a right partner. But after writing all this: Black offers an array of splendid adventurous rock routes in a wild and rugged setting that epitomize the essence, purity, and joy of rock climbing - Stuart Green.
Leisure Route First Ascent by Ed Webster and Chester Dreiman, 1982.
This is excellent route, one of the canyon’s better moderate routes. It is located on North Chasm View Wall - on its Southeast Face. Despite its name, however, this is not a leisure climb - the crux pitch is serious and committing. Robbie Williams in his Black Canyon Rock Climbs warns that a couple of people lost their lives on this route. The crux is old school - protected by marginal gear with a large runout above - and requires a confident 5.9 leader. You can bypass the runout pitch by climbing Leisure Summer variation. This variation follows the first 2 pitches of Leisure Climb, then traverses left into Midsummer Night's Dream excellent 3rd pitch.
The climb starts at the bottom of the 2nd rappel in Cruise Gully (just walk about 30 meter down from the end of the rope). Look for an obvious right-facing corner system on the right wall of the East Face of North Chasm View. Scramble up 30 feet of 3rd class rock to a large grassy ledge below the corner. The top of the route contains a fair bit of loose rock, so it is strongly recommended that you avoid climbing below another party.
To reach the North Rim: Take Hwy 92 past the town of Crawford and turn right (west) onto the North Rim Road, follow the signs for the national park for 11 miles to the North Rim Ranger Station and the North Rim Drive. The first half of the road is paved; the second half is graveled, but suitable for all vehicles. The road and the North Rim Ranger station are closed in the winter.
Note there is no road that links the rims within the National Park - you have to drive around. It is more than 70 miles.
To reach base of the Leisure Climb, you need to descent via Cruise Gully. The best place to park is either Ranger Station, or the entry to the campground. From the campground (little less walk), walk towards the ranger station. Look for a well established path on your right that leads into the trees, located about 50 yards past the SOB trailhead and 100 yards up from the ranger station.
The descent is class 3-4 scramble, with 2 rappels near the end. Both rappels had fixed static lines.
Leisure Climb is located on the North Chasm View Wall, which you will see on your right when descending Cruise Gully. Leisure climb starts about 30 meter down from the bottom of the 2nd rappel.
|Pitch 1: Face climb right of the bushy corner above the ledge on 5.7 rock - easy climbing, you can place tons of protection in the corner crack; then continue on a steeper wall 5.8 off width/layback crack in the corner to an obvious ledge above the crack. Good protection, #4 camalot may be helpful (we did not bring any bigger gear with us).|
|Pitch 2: Follow a left facing corner (almost a chimney) 5.8, nice section of the climbing, good gear; work up right along a ramp to easier rock (see photo) and a small belay stance. Fun pitch.For Leisure Summer traverse left, end on a ledge below a right facing corner with roofs ( = pitch 3 of Midsummer Night's Dream).|
|Pitch 3: The crux lead. Traverse left from the belay across narrow ledges. Climb an easy flake with excellent protection, then face climb up right to a finger crack. At the point that the crack starts to thin down (at a small roof), place gear under the roof. Climb over the roof (5.9+). Continue up unprotected rock to a sloping ledge. “If you can’t climb 5.9 without falling, get someone else to lead this pitch.” from Black Canyon Rock Climbs by Robbie Williams.Leisure Summer variation: Trend up right into another right facing corner with a series of of small roofs. There are a couple of fixed ancient fixed pieces to clip before you reach the roofs. Above the final bulge, continue climbing low 5th class terrain to many possible belay spots.|
|Pitch 4: Climb a long, broken, right-facing groove/dihedral (5.6) to a pedestal. I think one of the more difficult 5.6s :) - sometimes wondering about the rating, but definitively another fun pitch of climbing. Face climb up right to a belay stance.2nd time: we set up a belay above the 2nd roof and continued then on 5th class terrain, various options trying to stick to highest quality of rock.|
|Pitch 5: Climb a groove 5.5 to a large ledge. Work up easy rock (5.5) to a large ledge. Work up easy rock from the right side of the ledge and climb a chimney. Belay on Grand traverse ledge, a large terrace that divides the upper wall.|
|Pitch 6: Walk left on a little path to an easy fifth class slab that ends minutes from the campground. Or you can continue to traverse along the cliffs with tons of bushwhacking and 4th class scrambling, which eventually gets you to the North Chasm View Overlook (on the photo below - park rangers checking out on climbers)You can add another pitch of climbing instead of the walk off. 2nd time we climbed 5.9 Direct Finish Exit Pitch. More for this one along the slightly ascending terrace for about 70 meters. Near the first clump of juniper trees, look for a nice splitter that leads into steeper pergmatite groove/chimney right before its finish.|
60 meter rope, 2 sets of nuts, double rack up to #4 camalots, long slings, draws, helmet.
You have to build all your anchors.
I find it useful to make a copy of a route description and bring topo. If you don't have one, stop at the ranger station, they can make you a copy.
You also need to register prior your climb, and carry a copy of your permit with you. Don't forget to sign in at the ranger station for your climb and drop off your permit after you are done with climbing. Most of the climbs are possible to view from different overlooks, and climbing rangers like to keep eye on climbers during the busy season.