Dark Shadows, IV, 5.8

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 36.12273°N / 115.49584°W
Additional Information Route Type: Technical Rock Climb
Additional Information Time Required: A long day
Additional Information Difficulty: IV, 5.8
Sign the Climber's Log


From the Pine Creek parking lot, follow the trail into Pine Creek Canyon. When the canyon forks, take the right (north) fork. The trail becomes faint and braided at this point, but the best route is to head uphill about 100 feet, then go left (west), contouring along the right hillside of this drainage about 600 yards on one of the many trails that lead to the large, varnished, north face of the Mescalito.

Route Description

This route was first climbed by a crowd in 1973. It is one of the best 5.8 climbs at Red Rocks. The climb goes all the way to the top of Mescalito for 14 long pitches, but these days,most people just climb the first four. If you would like to climb the whole route, make sure you know the way down. In early years, this 14 pitch climb was one of the Classics of the area, but due to the adventurous descent, people now climb only the first four pitches. The complete 14 pitch climb is highly recommended as good climbing continues all the way to the summit.

Start on the flat boulder atop a small waterfall at the right edge of a pool, and below a huge, black dihedral system capped by a giant roof.

P1-Face climb up and right past two bolts to a left leaning ramp that leads to the base of a varnished corner. Two bolt belay anchor, 75 feet, 5.5. You can also climb the face about 30-40 feet left of the corner. Somewhat sparsely protected 5.10 A face climbing gets you to the same belay ledge and bolts (see the primary photo here). 

P2-Climb the clean, varnished, right facing corner above, moving left to a belay ledge and bolts. 75 feet, 5.7

P3-Stem up the beautiful dihedral to a ledge, 120 feet, 5.7

P4-Climb the right curving crack in the right wall to another tweo bolt belay under the giant roof, 75 feet, 5.8.

Rappel the route in three rappels, using two 50 meter ropes.

If you want to continue, climb straight up over the roof (5.8), follow the prow of the buttress for ten more pitches (5.7-5.8) to the top of the formation. 

Facing up just bellow the end of the last pitch, walk to the right over ledges, for a few hundred yards to almost the end of the ridge, where in 1980s, series of rappels off trees (50 meter ropes), fixed gear and scrambling down some chimneys, put you back to the top of the Mescalito Gully. The rap route that Fossana describes ( in additions and corrections) might be the new version of the old descent route. I don't remember any rap bolts there all those years ago, but the location as described by her seems very similar to the "old" down route.
Before attempting the complete 14 pitch route, please familiarize yourself about the descent. I thoroughly enjoyed climbing the complete route in 1987. Quality Route.

Essential Gear

For the complete Dark Shadows Route bring set of SLCDs, set of Wires and many slings. 2 x 50 meter ropes are needed to get off the top of the 4th pitch as well as rapping after climbing the complete buttress (14 pitches).

Miscellaneous Info

If you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

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rpc - Mar 16, 2004 12:14 pm - Voted 10/10

Route Comment

P1 and P2 can easily be combined with a 60m-rope.

With two 60m ropes, the route can be rapped in two double rope rappels. This might be a good idea since the route gets quite crowded and the belay ledge atop P3 is small (i.e. if you're rapping past climbers, it'll be uncomfortable). First, rap from top of P4 to top of P2 (two 60m ropes) and then do another double rope rap to the ground. NOTE that two 50m ropes will NOT reach top of P2 from top of P4.


fossana - Jun 21, 2009 1:06 pm - Hasn't voted

P5-P10 & Descent

addenda to Handren's description in italics To access the upper pitches you'll need to use the anchor to the right and around the corner from the usual P4 one. There are a bolt and a pin in the seam leading up to a roof just above and to the left of the normal P4 anchors. This is not the route. Also note, that above P4 the route is more exposed to sun and wind. P5, 120', 5.7 Follow the seam past bolt through an easy roof. Continue up left-trending crack to top of left-hand pillar. P6, 120', 5.7 Step across the void and climb chimney. There is chimney to the left and an offwidth to the right. I didn't see the bolt and piton near the chimney mentioned by Handren at 30' and 60', respectively, and it's challenging to protect. As with the person before me I opted to climb the more solid varnished face to the right of the chimney, using the offwidth for pro. The only bolt I found was on a face to the right of the offwidth. You end up in the same place, the pod mentioned by Handren. Above the pod start moving up 20' and left 15' to a (now) single bolt anchor on a ledge below a crack. P7, 120', 5.7 Climb finger crack to flake to small ledge below roof. P8, 60', 5.7 Head around the right side of the roof, up crack and through a series of bushy ledges until you reach the base of twin cracks (look up and left from the first ledge). note: I combined P7 and P8, after finding my options for gear placements fairly limited for an anchor at P7, belaying just below the first bushy ledge (we scrambled up to the actual belay later). It was difficult to communicate with J with the wind, but the rope drag wasn't too bad. P9, 80-90' (110' per Handren), 5.7 Head up the twin cracks to a ledge with a single bolt anchor. P10, 170', 5.8 Two options here. Handren describes a right-facing corner. To your left there's an obvious white sandstone dihedral, leading up to a blank (appearing) slab, then to the roof. There's also a shallower, varnished, but likewise right-facing corner to your right, which leads all the way to the roof. Either works. After the roof head up to a large ledge with trees below the summit. Summit (optional P11) From the route top out go up and left to start. There's a series of ramps interspersed by short technical sections (up to 5.7-5.8?). We soloed this but it could be done on rope with mindful management. Descent Notes Only one of the anchors above P4 was rigged for a rap and only b/c someone had added webbing, but did check out the possible series of rap anchors as noted by asmrz. There were some anchors visible on neighboring routes (climber's left) but they seemed to go only part way up. Handren describes 2 summit walk-off options, noted to be less than ideal. We tried to find the top of Cat in the Hat without success. Eventually we found cairns that we thought would lead to one of the walk-offs. Instead (after some time) they took us to a series of 2 double rope rap stations that dumped us just upstream from the route.

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