Deep Space, located in the deep recesses of the north face of Mescalito, has a bit of Red Rock lore attached to it and perhaps could take title to the best multi pitch trad route without a star next to in in Handren’s guide. It is definitely a worthy route at the grade in Red Rock and offers outstanding varnished rock in a cool position that leads to a Mescalito summit. I climbed this route with Joanne Urioste and remember commenting to her that I thought the color and texture of the varnish inside the chimney was the most unique I had seen at Red Rock. It has copper colored textured swirls in it. Joe Herbst established the route in the mid 70’s but it never gained classical status partially due to several meters of run out chimney required to exit the main chimney onto cracks on the main wall. If you are competent at the grade, these few meters might not phase you much. In fact the crux pitch is the next pitch after this exit and it is well protected. Most notably missing from Handren’s description are the finishing pitches. Although I am sure there are easier exits as his notes describe, crack systems do tie together from the top of the chimney all the way to the summit and offer some of the best climbing on the route at no harder the grade. Although I am sure we did not set any FA pitches….there was little beta to go on in 2015 regarding these finishing pitches and there are no doubt many options to choose from. Joanne and I really enjoyed the line we finished straight up the gut of the wall.
hile the 4th pitch is the identifying pitch to the route with its beautiful varnish and run out stemming, the 5th pitch is by far the crux following a finger splitter up to below a roof and then making an exposed traverse left. The rest of the route offers variations but my description below found good climbing and maintained a fairly straight line to the top. The 7th pitch was probably my favorite of this group, but the 8th pitch was cool as well.
Park at the Pine Creek pull out on the Red Rock loop road. Hike in along Pine Creek trail as you would for Dark Shadows. Stay on the regular trail for Dark Shadows and drop down and cross the wash once you recognize the right side of the triangular lower wall that is easy to identify on the northeast wall of Mescalito. Bush whack up and right until you hit the wall and then follow it back left to a nice alcove below the start of a 5th class chimney system that leads to a massive ledge below the main chimney system above.
Deep Space, 1300+/-, 5.9
1st Pitch- 100’- 5th/ You can go up either side of the “triangular cone” which marks the base of the massive right facing corner/chimney that the name of this route is referencing. The right side approach is part of the original route and labeled 5.4 at 300’ in Handren’s guide. In reality, it is 50’ of 3rd class to a ledge, 100’ of 5.4 to the main ledge and then a 200’ walk left through brush to the base of the chimney. If someone needs a belay on this first pitch, stop at the top of the dark vanished right facing corner on the right side of the cone (100’) and bring them up and then coil the rope for the walk to the base of the chimney.
2nd Pitch- 100’- 5.8/ You can combine pitches here but to the best of my recollection most of these initial pitches within the deep section stretch from ledge to ledge in the chimney at approximately 100’. Each ledge has a slung block for retreat with most of the tat being fairly worn. Climb the easy and heavily varnished wall to the next ledge in the chimney.
3rd Pitch- 100’- 5.6/ Same as the previous pitch stopping at the base of what many would consider the crux pitch, the stem portion of the black chimney. There are two old pitons here, but a slung block served as a better belay.
4th Pitch- 75’- 5.9/ Some consider this exposed stem chimney the crux of the route, however, the next pitch offers more technical climbing. Stem up via mostly hands for the first move or two (crux) facing out and keep heading out of the chimney finding positive foot edges until you can start climbing in the varnished crack that angles up and right (on the left wall facing out). The pro is not straight forward as the crack mostly offers pods but it is bomber once you find it. Pull over the bulge/slung boulder above onto a comfortable belay ledge and belay off of small off-set gear/nuts. The first 30’ is run out stemming.
5th Pitch- 75’- 5.9/ No question this pitch is the technical crux of the climb. Head up the thin seam that angles up and right. Thoughtful moves and pro (but solid) climb the crack and pull a bulge then traverses left under a roof on light colored sandstone to another comfortable belay below an off-width left facing corner. There is an old homemade piton (2015) at about 30’ but not necessarily needed. Fun pitch, I thought the best of the route even though I love stem chimneys.
6th Pitch- 200’- 5.8/ From this point of the route upwards, I ran the rope out at 200’+/- per pitch. Climb the off-width corner until it peters out. Then continue to meander up easy climbing. One can take a variety of choices. My goal was to keep the line as straight as possible. I saw a beautiful right facing heavily vanished corner straight up high and aimed for that. Mantel onto the right side of a small hanging ledge below a mossy right facing corner that leads up to this “chocolate colored” rock. Good gear belay. My partner was Joanne Urioste and she felt like most of the climbing I did after this was a variation different than the FA but of much better quality.
7th Pitch- 200’- 5.8/ I climbed the suspect and moss laden right facing corner to the base of the beautifully varnished wide right facing corner. Climb it and then up easy ground aiming for steep varnished plates above. Once I reached the plates, I traversed right on a hanging block which lead to a nice right facing hands corner and climbed it to just below a left leaning crack below an arch. Large gear belay.
8th Pitch- 200’- 5.8/ Climb the arch out left and continue up the nice varnished crack system until a tree and brush in general block your way atop a platform. Stem out right and up a red colored corner crack ramp and belay on small gear at a stance.
9th Pitch- 200’- 5.7/ Climb the ramp to its top. From here a low angled face leads to a large ledge below the summit. This is run out but easy ground. Continue straight up another face aiming for a yellow colored chimney up and right. A C4# 4 protects this 5.7 chimney which lands you in a slot through the summit blocks. Belay off a tree.
There is a walk off and a fast rap option I established years ago several hundred meters west from the summit, however the rap down Cat in the Hat will be the quickest for most folks. Walk through the slot made by the summit blocks. Scramble down right and eventually skiers left into a vegetated gully with a tree further down. You cannot see the first fixed rap, but as you near the end (cliff out) of the gully with an obvious tree, a fixed rap is on the right wall. A single 70m rope just makes it down to the ridge below. Scramble along the ridge and circumvent it to the right near the end. Several slung tree/bush single rope raps get you down 5th class type terrain. There is some 3rd class to walk at the end to reach the flat ledge where the top rap of Cat in the Hat resides. Takes the Cat in the Hat raps down to the ground, a 70m rope does the trick no worries. It is worth it to rope up in Pine Creek and haul your shoes up and over versus returning to the base of the climb.
70m rope. I ran quite a few 200’+ pitches and many would appreciate it on the first rap if not possibly several of the others. You do not need large gear for this route despite its name although a C4#4 is handy for many of the gear belays, etc. Single rack to C4#4 unless you are not comfortable on run out 5.7-5.8 terrain. These are long pitches, if you are used to sewing this grade up, take doubles. The crux climbing at the grade involves small gear. These are long pitches, take mostly shoulder length slings. This is a north facing route, dress accordingly.