"World renowned for its intimidating, adventurous rock climbs, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River also serves up a little winter ice fun. The main objective is Gandalf's Beard. However, ice has been known to form in the Black Canyon to the right of the Cruise Gully (right side of Chasm View Wall), off the North Chasm View Overlook, and between the Painted Wall and Porcelain Wall. Not much is known about these latter routes. So we'll leave them up to your sense of adventure." - Jack Roberts, Colorado Ice
The South Rim of the Black Canyon offers two great ice climbs, as of right now. The classic Gandalf's Beard is located approximately 3.5 miles from the visitor center on the south rim, in the large drainage on the right-hand side (a few hundred yards before the Chasm View Overlook). Shadowfax is a route, which is not included in any guidebooks for the area, but is similar in length to Gandalf's Beard, with a shorter approach. It is located down the East Portal Road (the first road on the right, immediately after entering the National Park). To reach this climb, continue on the East Portal Road (plowed, but not open to vehicles) for approximately 2.5 miles and drop down the ridge to the northwest (left side of the road), following the massive drainage/creek to the top of the ice climb.
Although climbing on the North Rim of the Black Canyon is perfectly legal during the winter, the access is far more committing, and would likely require a few days to get anything done. The gravel road which leads into the park, after exiting from CO Hwy 92 near Crawford is closed and requires skiing the road for miles before ever reaching the canyon. The opportunity for ice and mixed lines to form in the various gullies on the North Rim seems very promising; however, it would certainly entail a lot of work.
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is located approximately 250 miles southwest of Denver.
The reach the south rim, take CO Hwy 347 via US Hwy 50, located 15 miles east of Montrose. Follow this road to the park entrance (free during the winter months) The road is plowed to the visitor center and closed beyond that point.
To reach the North Rim of the canyon, follow the signs to turn off CO Hwy 92 near Crawford and continue on what becomes Black Canyon Road until you reach the road closure, and ski in from there.
Shadowfax is a tucked away, two pitch ice climb located off the East Portal Road (about 5 miles or so up canyon from Gandalf's Beard) Although you don't have the incredible views of the North Chasm Wall like on Gandalf's Beard, the area is wild feeling and has great views down canyon. The climb itself is about the same length as Gandalf's Beard, with a shorter approach. On a clear day, it's a relatively quick, 30 minute bike ride on the plowed road to wh...[more]Browse More Classics in CO
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