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Dark Shadows Wall, 5.8-5.12c

Dark Shadows Wall, 5.8-5.12c

Dark Shadows Wall, 5.8-5.12c

Page Type: Mountain/Rock

Location: Nevada, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 36.12333°N / 115.49389°W

Object Title: Dark Shadows Wall, 5.8-5.12c

Activities: Trad Climbing

Season: Spring, Summer, Fall


Page By: Dow Williams

Created/Edited: Apr 26, 2009 / Feb 3, 2013

Object ID: 508945

Hits: 3428 

Page Score: 79.78%  - 11 Votes 

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The Dark Shadows Wall (14 published routes in 2009) is located in the very shady confines of Pine Creek Canyon on the north face of Mescalito. The actual route Dark Shadows (obviously the namesake for the wall) might just be the most popular route at Red Rocks. Therefore the route overshadows the wall in general (pun intended) which is home to several other fantastic climbs including Chasing Shadows, four pitches at 5.8+, Negro Blanco, over a 1000’ at 5.11a, Risky Business, four pitches at 5.10c and Excellent Adventure, three pitches at 5.11a. Dark Shadows to the top of Mescalito is actually 10 pitches in full length, but the majority of folks have only climbed the first four pitches of the route. If you reach the summit of Mescalito, you can then rap perhaps the competing most popular route in all of Red Rocks, Cat in the Hat. This option would allow a complete traverse of the peak.
Dark Shadows, 5.8
Dark Shadows, 5.8

The varnished rock on the wall is exceptional as it steeply rises out of the actively flowing (unusual by Red Rocks standards) creek below. For the most part you can almost rule Dark Shadows Wall out for the winter months as this is one of the most shaded north facing walls in the park. Likewise in the summer these would be the most desirable routes to climb. In the spring and fall, on weekends, you will find an array of tourists hiking this section of Pine Creek Canyon.

Park at the Pine Creek trailhead off of the Red Rocks loop road. Hike down the trail along the creek, past the old homestead and into the wash as it heads for Mescalito. Continue deep into the right fork of Pine Creek Canyon. This is a lush area with quite a bit of vegetation overshadowing a flowering creek. There is a trail that skirts the canyon floor on the right. Eventually you come to the Dark Shadows wall on the left with a large boulder perched over running water.

Route Description(s)

Chasing Shadows, 5.8+
Chasing Shadows, 5.8+
Chasing Shadows, 5.8+
Looking down at the third pitch

Routes Listed Left to Right as you Face the Wall

  • Negro Blanco- 1100’- 5.11a/

  • Lethal Weapon- 90’- 5.12c/

  • Parental Guidance- 170’- 5.12a/

  • Short Circuit- 60’- 5.11b/

  • Risky Business- 360’- 5.10c/

  • Excellent Adventure- 350’- 5.11a/

  • Sandstone Sandwich- 150’- 5.10c/

  • Heart of Darkness- 1100’- 5.11c/

  • Dark Shadows- 1040’- 5.8/
  • The first four pitches of Dark Shadows are well documented, however my preferred ascent covering the same ground would actually be Chasing Shadows which offers up some fantastic exposure over the large roof to the right above the first two pitches of Dark Shadows. In any regard, the fifth pitch of Dark Shadows starts to the right of the large roof directly above the fourth pitch. Instead of stopping at the anchor set directly above the forth pitch crack, traverse easy ground up and right to another fixed belay. The fifth pitch follows a seam past a bolt and over an easy bulge/roof. Exit out of the widening crack left onto a large ledge with bad bolts on its edge. Do a gear belay in the back crack, medium to large gear. Retreat from here will require leaving gear. The next several pitches are fairly uneventful until you reach what Handren has spelled out as three separate pitches, 7-9. I combined all three with one 70m rope with some simul climbing. Some have referenced the tenth pitch as the best pitch on the route in their summit logs (I would still consider the third and forth pitches better overall climbing). On the tenth pitch, after climbing a run out but beautifully varnished and featured wall, you pull a roof. My second had quite the time with this pull, so perhaps it is challenging or he was just tired. In any regard, some will consider this the crux move of the route. I just remember a nice jam in there. This pitch ends on a huge bivy ledge with trees and bushes. The face above can be soloed or done in two quick rope pitches. It is easy 5th class, but quite chossy in places. You start center, zig right, then zag left, then zig right to the summit of Mescalito. Dow

  • Lost Shadows- 340’- 5.9/

  • Chasing Shadows- 350’- 5.8+/
  • Chasing Shadows is a fantastic alternative, if not a better route, than its much more popular brethren, Dark Shadows. Chasing Shadows shares the first two pitches of Dark Shadows. Most, including myself, combine those two pitches as one long easy pitch. From there the line for Chasing Shadows runs up right via an exposed crack that leads to a fixed belay just below an exposed significant roof. The last pitch of Chasing Shadows is stellar albeit run out and exposed to the hilt as it traverses crimpy and crumbly edges across paper thin varnish above the roof and then straight up to its own fixed anchor just meters to the right of Dark Shadows fourth pitch anchor. Dow

  • Edge Dressing- 350’- 5.10b/
  • (a final bolted pitch variation of Chasing Shadows)

  • Slot Machine- 150’- 5.10b/

  • Peyote Power- 1050’- 5.9/
  • Peyote Power is an average route by Red Rock standards. The first pitch runs up a roof on its right side, passing an intermediate station and then climbing an easy corner up and left to a fixed station. The second pitch offers several variations (photo offers detail) and Handren’s guide book notes are not very clear. My partner wandered up slightly left on some steep and fun jugs through a small roof/bulge on decent varnish. There is a fixed station above this small roof on a sloping ledge. He continued the second pitch onto a ramp, up and right, where he could easily build a gear station (a full 200’). A much more aesthetic line would be to head up and right from the top of the first pitch on some run out slab to the base of an obvious corner and then climb the partially varnished corner to a semi hanging fixed belay straight above. The third pitch is the crux of the climb. It also offers the best climbing and rock on the route (5.9). Continue up to the base of the chimney and climb the heavily varnished face out left. The face is so well featured, there are several variations. I trended out left a bit before I headed straight up to the fixed belay above. Because my partner had taken the ramp option below, we needed a short amount of simul-climbing to reach that belay. The “punchy crux” of this third pitch as Handren refers to in his guide can be well protected with two .4-.5 C4’s in a varnished horizontal crack or better yet, off set nuts. The rest of the steep varnished pitch involves positive holds and edges. The fourth and fifth pitches were rather mundane as the rock deteriorates further up. Most folks rap from the top of the fifth pitch. Dow

Essential Gear

These are mostly trad lines requiring an assortment of gear as spelled out in Jerry’s book. Many do have fixed rappel stations. Read up on which routes you are interested in ahead of time to determine whether you need to bring doubles or a single rope for the raps. Jerry’s Handren’s “Red Rocks, A Climbers Guide", is the best guide book for Red Rocks. The routes are north facing and offer just about the coolest temperatures in all of Red Rocks to climb in.

External Links

  • Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, BLM

  • Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association

  • DowClimbing.Com
  • Red Rocks


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