Dark Shadows, Mescalito North 5.8


Red Rocks, Nevada USA

  • Currently 5.0/5
Avg time to climb route: 2 hours
Approach time: 45 minutes
Descent time: 1.5 hours
Number of pitches: 4
Height of route: 1000'
It’s hard to believe that the steep, dark, and ominous dihedral of Dark Shadows is rated only 5.8. The route is capped by a huge roof and has walls so black and polished that they shine. Located in a tight canyon with large trees and pools of water, the atmosphere is distinctly unlike other Red Rocks climbs. While the route goes all the way to the top of Mescalito, it is rare for anyone to venture above the 4th pitch, especially when faced with the choice of a convenient rappel or a nasty and infamous descent from the top of the route. The only drawback to this amazing climb is the crowds…and the soaked ropes that are hard to avoid on the last rappel!
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Back in the 1960s, this formation was known as Red Cap, and access was limited due to private property. Jeff Lansing was dating the caretaker’s daughter and thus had the connection needed to get easily to the base of the routes. Both caretaker and daughter fit very well into the 1960s hippie psychedelic scene. When Jeff and Peter Wist climbed the East Face in 1968, they named the formation Mescalito, which had the proper hallucinogenic overtones.

As a friend of Jeff, Joe Herbst was able to include the Mescalito formation in the thorough scouting he applied to all the Red Rocks canyons. Joe’s knowledge paid off with first ascents of several good lines on Mescalito in the company of a number of Red Rocks regulars. The logical question is how did Joe miss such an obvious line as Dark Shadows? Joe says simply, “I don’t know. There’s a lot of rock out there—maybe we just didn’t get around to it.”

Joanne Urioste’s 1984 guidebook credits Nick Nordblom and Jon Martinet with the first ascent of the complete route in 1979. Nick was fairly “old-school.” He and a few friends did their initial climbing with a handful of Eiger oval carabiners, and a dacron rope liberated from its former function as the mainsheet on a friend’s sailboat. Not quite starting with the family clothesline, but close. In the middle 1970s, Dark Shadows was a four pitch route leading up to the big roof. At that time the initial slab pitch had no protection bolts, but Nick and his partners climbed it anyway, wearing their heavy Vasque mountaineering boots. “Really good edging,” said Nick.

On the day they started their complete ascent, Nick and Jon headed up the “short route” with just one 150-foot rope. The concept of going all the way to the top of the peak had not really formed in their minds. They reached the belay position under the large roof and evaluated their situation. With only one rope, the rappel option did not appeal to them. The alternative was to continue up to the summit. The decision was made and they continued up. They climbed another nine pitches wandering up the upper crack systems before they pulled onto the summit ridge. Their problems were not over. Neither of them was certain of the descent route. They bushwhacked through manza...   [full history for SuperTopo members only!]

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Source: SuperTopo Guidebook Staff Last update: March 19, 2009
Mescalito North - Dark Shadows 5.8 - Red Rocks, Nevada USA. Click to Enlarge
Dark Shadows follows a black, polished dihedral up Mescalito.
Photo: Greg Barnes
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