Tombstone Crack, 5.11-***
Two of my favorite single pitch crack climbs
in all of the Stronghold are Tombstone Crack (5.11-)
and Dark Shadows (5.9+ PG).
They are both accessed from the same approach pitch and ledge and can be combined with a bolted arête between them named Stiletto (5.11)
to make for a full day of climbing. The Tombstone is located on the south side (up on a hill) of the same road that dead ends for the Whale, Westworld and Square Top.
Dow leading Dark Shadows, 5.9+ PG**
Approach beta is all over the place. But to keep it simple, there is a campsite and/or pull out on the left side of the road before you meet the formal campsites at the end of the road. Park here which should put you just about directly north of the feature known as the Tombstone (from atop Westworld it truly looks like a Tombstone and is described in the guide as a “monolithic pillar”). The easy way to spot it when you are driving east on the road is to locate the lichen covered wall (southeast) with a wide splitter facing west.
That splitter is Dark Shadows.
Gain the wash on the south side of the road and turn left and then look fairly immediate for a small wash/drainage coming directly down from the northern slope of the Tombstone high up on the hill. A faint cairned climbers trail leads up to the base of the formation. A short approach pitch (one 5.7 move) is required to reach a broad bushy ledge below the north face. Look for an obvious right leaning wide crack (approach pitch). Once on the ledge, move left to the base of a short chimney directly below Tombstone Crack (photo) or scramble up behind a large boulder on its left side to access the other three routes to the right of Tombstone Crack.
The fixed rap on the northeast shoulder of the true summit is extended (2018) to allow a single rap with a true 70m rope
down the Tombstone Crack route itself. It is easy to reach this fixed rap from atop Dark Shadows as well. Stiletto has its own cold shut fixed rap at top as well as a mid-station (top of Old School Executioner) that gets you down with a single 60m rope in two raps.
This descent option can easily be accessed from any of the other routes as well.
Route Description(s)North Face, Routes Left to Right
Tombstone Crack- 120’-5.11-***/ Stem up easier ground to the stellar hand crack on the left side of Tombstone. Jam the crack with quite a few features for stances and rests. The crux is approximately 3/4ers of the way up where the crack slightly overhangs. You can see some knees size pods, but the actual crux is a flaring crack/groove for just a meter or two between the pods where hands become too shallow (thus the grade of the route). My first tendency was to layback left through the crux, but the easier way is to layback right maybe one move if even which gives a more secure hand in the shallow grove which allows you to move your toes up on a feature and gain a jug. The rest goes back to 5.9/5.10a to the finish. In 2017 there was an extended static rope from a fixed rap that allows you to reach the base with a true 70m rope. Single to C4#4, doubles to #2. If you tripled up on anything, it would be a #1. There are several good nut or off-set placements at the crux. Route is true north facing. Dow
Old School Executioner- 100’-5.12**/
Dark Shadows- 200’-5.9+ PG**/ It is easy from the approach ledge to 5th class up a chimney on the left and then down climb right to access the base of this wide (beautiful as seen from the road) and tall splitter. Stem up to the roof and place a C4#2. Pull the roof and continue stemming and chimneying up the wide crack placing nothing but wide gear until near the top where a C4#.4 fits a slot on the left. There is some off width and the route is physical and sustained in the 5.8-5.9 grade, but if competent at wide, it is mostly just a fun jaunt with no memorable crux. At the top you can build a belay with #2’s and/or #3’s under the summit block. You can rap Tombstone Crack with a single 70m rope. Single to C4#6, doubles from #4 to #6. I only placed a #.4 and a #2 en route besides the large gear. A #3 and #2 builds the gear belay at top. Route is mostly north facing. Dow