The Black has a reputation, especially with climbers from the States, and I suppose, rightly so. The canyon is about 2000 feet deep with a large river running through its length. At its most narrow, it’s only 40 feet wide where the river butts the cliffs. It’s difficult to see a climb before getting on it, never mind inspect it, so it’s more often than not, a case of setting out, hoping the guidebook description is correct. There are very few climbs with less than six pitches, most have far more.
On the well-travelled routes, there will be suspect rock, and on the less frequented climbs more so. The climbing is predominantly traditionally protected, there are very few bolts—in-fact, there is hardly any in-situ protection anywhere, not even for belays. Once you’ve started to climb, escape—should you discover that 5.9 you thought you would float up is actually really difficult—is a mission, and a big chunk of rack will have to be abandoned. If you do have to abseil, it’ll take a few hours, or longer to get out, and the sun will beat you for your lack of staying power. Even if you manage to get up your route, you’ll possibly have underestimated the sustained nature of the climbing, the effect of the sun (or cold), or altitude, and top out in the dark, or maybe you’ll have an enforced bivouac, shivering the night on a ledge 100 metres below the campground.
While Tim and I were climbing in the Canyon we completed 15 routes. I would say this was the perfect amount of time for many people to get into it, and then climb some of the longer, more adventurous routes. At the end of four weeks I was both physically and mentally exhausted, but I’m sure there are loads of folk that could last it out longer, although a big consideration (especially for Brits), will be the weather. When we arrived in later September the sun directly on some climbs, made it almost unbearable and by the time we left, only four weeks later, we were waiting for the sun because it was too cold to climb.
My favourite three climbs were Atlantis, Journey Home and Scenic Cruise, although for a really memorable, and low maintenance day out I’d recommend the final three pitches of Lost Cities, (relatively easy to get to by abseil) that is similar to climbing the longest and best pitch you can think of on Gogarth Main Cliff three times.”