Heart of Darkness Corridor, 5.9-5.11a

Heart of Darkness Corridor, 5.9-5.11a

Page Type Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Location Lat/Lon: 33.98991°N / 116.14193°W
Activities Activities: Trad Climbing
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Sign the Climber's Log


Apocalypse Now, 5.9
Dow Leading Apocalypse Now, 5.9
Cacti Bloom

The climb Heart of Darkness (5.11a) is considered to be one of the most coveted 5.11 trad leads in Joshua Tree National Park. Its beautifully shaded and narrow corridor gives it a certain mystic quality. Located among the Oyster Bar features, the hike is fairly quick and easy making it a prime hot weather climb. There are actually two perfect splitters in this break away block, Apocalypse Now (5.9) is the other. If either route were taller (40’ers), they would both be considered four star routes in Miramontes guide. This whole formation reminds me of Arrowhead, home of Firewater Chimney (5.10b). You are climbing a block that has completely split from the major formation. You could almost stem the void like Firewater but not quite. You will not find cleaner splitters in Jtree. There is one rap atop Heart of Darkness. The run out to get to that rap from the top of Apocalypse involves some serious consideration but this route can also be down climbed by a competent trad leader.  If you chose to do this on Apocalypse, you will need a C4#5 for a top rope for anyone who can't lead it or even for a directional if you top rope it from the top of Heart of Darkness.  Heart of Darkness was established in 1979 and Apocalypse ten years later.

Park at the Oyster Bar pull out between Ryan and Sheep Pass campgrounds. Take the trail east from the parking area and circumvent the formation to the right at about 600 yards. Continue following a climbers trail on the right side passing the first major formation and scan the horizon ahead looking for a glimpse of the corridor up high to the south behind a tree. Continue to the south end where you will lose visual of it and scramble up several large boulder back west to descend into it. There are really two clustered formations that make up Oyster Bar. Heart of Darkness corridor is on the southwest corner of the second one.

Route Description(s)

Routes Listed from Left to Right as you face out of the Corridor

  • Heart of Darkness- 40’-5.11a***

  • Apocalypse Now- 40’-5.9*/ Just like Fisticuffs but not quite as physical at the end. I used one each C4#3 and #4 and then downclimbed the route. If you want to sow it up, bring another #3 and a #5 for the top. I would bring a #5 next time to place at the top to help protect the run out 5.9 slab/arête up to the Heart of Darkness anchors.  You would also need it for a directional if you are gong to top rope it for others.  You can clove hitch a feature at the top of the crack, but it is not a bomber horn (runner could bounce off) by any stretch. Mostly hands, then a fist or two and then arm bar and one knee jam at the end. The foot size crack makes this short crack pretty tame by Jtree standards for the accomplished trad leader. The consequences of falling whilst climbing from the top of the crack to the fixed anchor needs to be thought out in how you run your rope, etc. Dow