Chipeta Falls, CO Report: Black Canyon Ice Climb

Dominic Gawel | ClimbingClimbing
The top of Chipeta Falls. Climber: SJ Wood /Photo: Dominic Gawel

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Report from Sunday, February 28, 2021

Chipeta Falls is along the Gunnison River in Morrow Point Reservoir, just upstream from Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The falls are a WI3-WI4 ice climb accessed via a bushwhack from a turnout along Highway 92.

We parked along Highway 92 in a turnout in the Corral Creek drainage (38.4573, -107.3918), where we started the approach. From the turnout, we followed a well-established social trail in the snow. The approach starts by staying on the high east side of the drainage before descending onto the frozen creek. Once we reached the bottom of the creek, there were three pools and mini waterfalls before reaching the top of Chipeta Falls. The approach to the top of the three pools is about one mile and took about 45 minutes.

There is a short scramble down to the first pool from the top pool, where you can find the first set of bolts on the skier’s left (climber’s right). From the top bolts, there are three options to pass the next two pools: 1) set up a toprope and rappel down 2) set up a fixed line 3) downclimb two short sections of rock or ice if the upper falls are frozen without a rope. Once you descend the bottom two pools, we found the second set of bolts for the falls on the skier’s left-hand side of the falls (climber’s right).

Fixed-line out of the middle pool. Photo: Dominic Gawel

There are a few ways to climb the falls from the bottom bolts that access the main falls. 1) Top belay and lower your partner down 2) Rappel down, pull the rope, lead up, and 3) Rappel down and toprope belay from the bottom. We top belayed and lowered each other down. The falls are 160 feet (48 meters).

The climb itself was fun, although the falls are on their way out for this season. There are several sections of flowing water and very thin ice. The ice was soft, easy, and fun climbing.

Halfway up the falls! Photo: Dominic Gawel

Once we completed our climb, we ascended our fixed line up the next two pools and started our hike out. The social trail is well-traveled and should be easily found unless there has been significant snow. There are about two feet of snow, although not nearly enough to approach on skis. It took us a little more than three hours and could be done significantly faster.

Map:

Credit: CalTopo

Weather Forecast:

Credit: NOAA

Photos:

Looking upstream from Chipeta Falls. Photo: Dominic Gawel
Photo: Dominic Gawel
The hike back out – lots of fun walking on the frozen creek. Photo: Dominic Gawel
Epic sunset from highway 92 looking towards the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Photo: Dominic Gawel
Photo: Dominic Gawel

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