Dark Shadows Wall, 5.8-5.12c

Dark Shadows Wall, 5.8-5.12c

Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 36.12333°N / 115.49389°W
Activities Activities: Trad Climbing
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall
Sign the Climber's Log



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.

 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 Descriptions:  Left to Right

2nd Pitch, 5.10b
Dow leading the 2nd Pitch of Risky Business, 5.10c

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***/The first pitch only has a move or two at the grade and they are well protected.  It is mostly face climbing on good rock to a fixed rap/belay ledge.  The second pitch is much more sustained and offers corner to face climbing.  Perhaps the technical crux “move” of the route is after you leave the obvious shallow corner and traverse right and up intricate face moves just left of a heavily varnished arête which leads to a semi hanging fixed belay/rap anchor.  Someone on MP.com references this 2nd pitch as being run out, however it protects well for the competent leader.  The third pitch is by far the crux of the climb in terms of sustained movement, intricate pro and some sections of run out.  An unprotected and exposed traverse up and left leads to a bolt with an intermittent seam above that offers relatively unprotected 5.10 climbing up to a positive horizontal.  Moving right again to a more traditional crack on the arête itself will please the traditional crack leader. As the crack peters out into the arete you traverse out left yet again.  This can cause serious rope drag if you did not pay attention to extending your placements on this 3rd pitch.  After the featured traverse, climb another shallow corner to a hanging fixed rap/belay.  The final pitch is fully bolted for the most part and is by far the easiest pitch enroute which leads to a hidden fixed rap up and right on a ledge.   Dow

Excellent Adventure- 350’- 5.11a***/

Sandstone Sandwich- 150’- 5.10c**/ Not a favorite of mine as it is poorly protected at the crux with consequences and I am not talking about the run out face climbing through 90' of the first two clips on Excellent Adventure. Rather the roof pull before you actually gain Sandstone Sandwich itself. You can protect the pull, which is relatively easy, via a nest of horizontal gear placements but then are forced to face climb at the grade before clipping the first independent bolt on Sandstone Sandwich. If you fall for any reason prior to that clip, you will fall back and hit the lower angled lower wall and potentially break a bone. When two walls join at different angles it would be standard to protect the upper wall before leading at the grade. Dow

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- 305’- 5.10b/ Climb the first three pitches of Chasing Shadows which is really only two pitches (combine the first two of Dark Shadows). Then start on the last pitch of Chasing and follow the bolt line straight up versus make the airy traverse right.  This part of the wall can see quite a bit of morning sun in April.  I would avoid leading it until it is in the shade.  This is the blackest and most slick varnish you will find on sandstone.  This is a strenuous and sustained sport pitch at the grade for Red Rock.  The bolts have a little more spacing than many bolted routes do in the area.  The edges and sequences offer one option for most of the pitch if you are to get the route clean.  Chasing Shadows and Edge share the same rap anchor on top.  It is an ok route, but not near as interesting as Slot Machine further down at the same grade.  Dow

Slot Machine- 150’- 5.10b/ Slot Machine gets 2 stars in Handren’s guide and deserves every bit of that praise or more. Reading over the Mountain Project summit log, it reads like a potentially frightening route. It is not. Where one professed to place 10 rps or wires and another said he placed all of his DMM brassies #1-#5, I only found the need for one brassie and one regular sized wire. I placed two solid C4#.3’s and one #.4 along with several off-set cams to supplement the two wires and the single bolt near the top. . The 150’ references from the ground. In reality most do one of the taller routes and just rap back down to the top of pitch one on Dark Shadows and traverse in from there thus the independent line is closer to 80’ or so. It is a stellar trad pitch giving you fingers and/or ring locks when you need to place gear, almost by design. There is some left to right to left movement as you follow the obvious seam. A bolt protects the final few meters to a fixed rap. Slot Machine was established by Bob Conz and Sal Mamusia in 1990. Dow

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



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MescalitoMountains & Rocks