The Black Dagger is a quality trad route deep within Juniper Canyon. Although it is only seven pitches long, each pitch is quite different- ranging from slabs and cracks to dihedrals and chimneys. The diverse nature of this climb, along with its exposed and sporty second pitch, makes this route a fine outing. The most prominent pitch of the climb, however, is the third pitch (5.7+). This pitch follows a large crack system within a large right-facing dihedral. This dihedral, which is plastered with the usual sun-burned black varnish, is small at its base and grows wider toward the top. From a distance, it really does appear as a long and wicked black dagger! Don't let its sinister resemblance deter you though- The Black Dagger is a very stunning and aesthetic route!
As with all climbs in Juniper Canyon, The Black Dagger approach begins at the Pine Creek parking area- which is just over 10 miles down the one-way scenic road. Once you reach the parking lot, get ready for a rather lengthy and rugged approach. Two trails emerge from the parking lot. Follow the trail on the right (Pine Creek Trail) toward the back of the larger Juniper canyon. (The trail on the left leads to Ginger Buttress.) After passing Jack Rabbit Buttress on the right (about 20 to 30 minutes), the trails ends at a dry stream bed. From here, follow the somewhat beaten path over boulders and around shrubs until you come to a group of 25 degree rock slabs on your right. Ascend up and left on the slabs- paying close attention to the cairns. Follow the cairns on the slabs at the base of Brownstone Wall until you reach its end (as well as the end of Juniper Canyon). Once here, look for a crack system that leads to a medium-sized white roof. You've made it! This is the first pitch of The Black Dagger!
It is wise to allow at least 35 minutes for the approach; although I imagine it takes most parties nearly an hour to reach The Black Dagger.
Pitch 1: Ascend the easy and well-protected crack to the bottom of a prominent white roof until you reach two bolts. Be careful not to put too much weight on the large boulder under the anchors! (I couldn't find where this block was connected to the face!) This pitch is about 110 feet long and goes at about 5.3 or 5.4.
Pitch 2: The second pitch is quite exposed! From the anchors traverse down and left about ten feet before going up and right around the white roof. Keep traversing up and right above the overhang until you reach a bolt with some webbing. (CLIP IT!) From here, head straight up to a medium-sized terrace and good belay stance. The route is about 125 feet long and goes at about 5.7 PG/PG-13.
Pitch 3: This is a nice pitch! From the medium-sized terrace, ascend the crack system straight up the right-facing dihedral (The Black Dagger) until you reach a prominent chimney. The route is 125 feet long and is rated as a 5.7+. A lot of people expect a sinuous crack here. In fact, the crack is too wide to grip and lie-back all the way up. The crack is wide at times and is best ascended by stemming.
Pitch 4: Walk and scramble up the chimney (easy). Next, scramble up and out of a hole in the ceiling (awkward) to a small to medium-sized terrace and a good belay position. This pitch is about 50 feet long and is rated as fourth class.
Pitch 5: From the Terrace, ascend a well-protected pink slab with good holds. The route first heads straight up and then wonders a bit right to a small ledge and good belay next to a small tree. The pitch is about 100 feet long and goes at 5.6.
Pitch 6: From the small ledge, head straight up over a small and well protected roof. From here head straight up the slab until you find a suitable spot for a belay. This pitch is about 75 to 140 feet long depending upon how far you want to run the rope out on the final slabs. The pitch is rated at 5.6
Pitch 7: Ascend up easy 65-80 degree slabs to the summit. (This pitch can be simul-climbed and is rated as a fourth-class pitch.)
Pitch two is the only pitch on The Black Dagger with fixed gear. Hence, if you want to rap down The Black Dagger, be prepared to lose some gear! Nevertheless, the route The Nightcrawler, which also ascends Juniper Peak has bolted belays for each of its four pitches. Therefore, it is conceivable that this route could be rapped using two ropes (its longest pitch is 165 feet).
Another alternative to descending The Black Dagger is to descend the so called Gunsight. From the summit, head left (west) and then descend left down third class rock into the dirty and narrow notch (this is The Gunsight). Follow The Gunsight back down to Juniper Canyon. In Winter, The Gunsight may have pools of water and ice/snow. Some short rappels are necessary to descend The Gunsight. Look for fixed slings and webbing around some small trees to rappel from. Keep in mind that these rudimentary rappel anchors may be covered in leaves and grime in the winter.
From the base of The Gunsight, follow the approach back to the Pine Creek Parking lot.