David Gerwe and I just did this 8-3-13. 22hrs car to car.
Long day for us. Being in shape and or acclimated would have been a very good thing. Really the only thing we had going for us is, I think I am a really good climber and had sometime in the past convinced David of same. :)
2am start was great. We got to the base in 4 hours just as the route was completely lit up. As the approach was fuzzy and finding our way across the water between 2nd and 3rd lake as well as having to figure out where we were going to climb to get up to the "first pitch" of the route we didn't want to arrive in the total dark or get there too late and get behind someone.
In general all the technical pitches I found trickier and harder to climb than the grades marked on the topo, so have your Game Face on when you get there.
I posted two pics of Pitch 10 on the second tower. We had read several trip reports where the climbers couldn't find the roof and took another line. This area seemed to reflect the features in the Hand drawn topo which we primarily used. YMMV. Again both of these pitches seemed a bit sandbagged at maybe 10a and 10b. Thoughtful gear placements and suspect rock also may have added to the difficulty. Hope this helps.
We had some confusion as we went left at the top of the second tower and came to a short 60' rap station. After rapping GO LEFT first. Climb down at some point then back up and right and on and on. You will eventually get to the final two raps and the final scramble around the Red Tower and over to the gullies leading up to the top.
We tried to take as little as possible.
We tried to keep moving as much as possible.
We led in short 2 pitch blocks in the beginning to move quick and to split up the hard pitches.
We simuled pitchs 4 and 5.
We fourth classed from the top of 7 to the beginning of 10, as well as from the top of 11 to the top. Above 11 we only got out the rope for the raps.
Also we tried to not take too much time at the belays.
12 hours on the route, another 10 min to the summit.
I wished I had brought a helmet as there was a lot of loose rock up there. Be careful.
1-60M 1/2 rope.
a hand full of med to lg nuts. :)
Double cams from green alien to #2 C4
15 various slings
1.5 liters h2o
sub sandwich, shot blocks, Gu
Just a few thoughts from a couple of old guys (we’re both 61) who did Dark Star last Friday in very cold and windy weather. We found the hand drawn topo provided by Chris McNamara in his Route Beta posting of 8/22/08 to be quite useful, and have included a slightly updated version based on our experiences. Neither my partner nor I would put this route on our list of all time great Sierra routes, but it does feel both remote and committing, and as an “adventure climb” well worth the effort.
The climb consists of about 9 pitches of technical climbing, the majority of them on the lower buttress, and a whole lot of 4th and easy 5th class scrambling. The climbing is generally fun and well protected. After climbing the last 5.8 pitch on the Lower Buttress (No 7, after the chimney pitch) the climbing gets considerably easier. We continued to belay the 600 to 800 feet of 4th and easy 5th to the base of the Middle Buttress because of the exposure and occasional loose rock, but in hindsight probably should have done it 3rd class.
The Middle Buttress is a maze of fractured rock, and there doesn’t seem to be any obvious line that we could pick out. We angled up and slightly left, eventually climbing through a small roof via jambs and laybacking. We never noticed anything like a “15 foot black band of rock”, but the roof we did seemed about 5.10a. This pitch was a full 60 meters, and the following pitch had a bit of easy 5th before becoming a 4th class scramble. At this point we halved the rope and simulclimbed to the rappels. Again, it probably makes sense to just pack the rope and 3rd class. We did three short rappels because it seemed easier than down climbing the loose looking slots, but they didn’t look difficult. It’s pretty much a hike after the last rappel and your rope should be snugly tucked away. There’s a bit of exposure as you round the Red Tower, but it’s easy. The last part of the climb is basically a very long scramble with a few 5th class moves and non-existent exposure.
This climb, even with all the third classing, seemed long for two folks approaching social security age. We reached the top just as the light faded, and had to descend the talus with headlamps. Finding the rappel(s) down to Contact Pass in the dark proved one of the challenges of our day. Having followed the old adage that “if you bring bivy gear you will”, we came very close to spending a really cold night in the talus field.
As a final note, be sure to start the route at the second (right most) white splash of quartz. It seems obvious from the ground that the route follows the left of the two most prominent dihedrals, but when you reach the base of the climb the first dihedral system you reach also has a splash of white quartz to the left. We did this “variation” several weeks earlier and it seemed considerably harder (5.10c/d) and not nearly as well protected. There are bail slings about 80 feet up, which should have been a clue, but it does eventually come back to the “regular” route at the top of the second pitch.
I just did this one on August 7th. It's an awesome route that I highly recommend. It took us about 6-7 hrs from base to summit, but we only belayed or simuled 5.8 or harder pitches or anything that was loose and vertical where we might have been off route (about 6 pitches). Here are some comments regarding the description below:
The route starts in the left one of the two most prominent corner systems on the buttress. These two corners extend below the starting ledge and are easy to spot from the approach. Don't look for the "stuck stopper loop" in a small roof. It's there, but well hidden. The first belay has only one piton as I'm holding the other one in my hand right now (it was just hanging by a sling). The climbing on the lower buttress is super fun with lots of quartz imbedded in the granite making some very unusual rock.
Pitch 6 chimney is super wild. You go well into it and then try to reemerge soon after you go past a 2" crack. Don't try to go up to get out of it - you won't fit. I was barely able to fit through the exit and I'm only 140 lbs. Either way you might have to try several options before being able to get out. It's one of the wildest pitches ever. Something like reed's regular meets the narrows!
When we were simulclimbing above the chimney our rope pulled a rock off of some ledge and I caught it with my forehead. I was bleeding all over the place, but I think the injury was not fatal. We decided that it's safer to solo than to simul some sections of the route for that reason.
We sort of did pitch 10, but the location of pitch 11 was a total mistery to us. The climbing is more like 5.7-5.9 with quite loose rock. Never saw any roof or a bulge.
It's not necessary to rap at any point of time on the route. We were able to stay on the ridge the entire time never donwnclimbing anything harder than 5.6 or so. Due to the length of the ridge you pretty much have to do your own route finding. The topo won't be very helpful. There are tons of rap slings all over the place, but it's best to just ignore them or cut the old ones off. The closer you stay to the true ridge the more fun you will have.
After you get off the upper buttress and cross the gully you'll be faced with several options (pitch 19). The best one is to climb the super cool crack system just right of the arete. It's easy to recognize as to the left of the arete the rock is gray with beautiful yellow lichen, but on the right it's more brownish and covered with cool patina. You'd be belaying in a "corridor" where people must have bivyed in the past judging by the rusty food cans. We thought that that was the 5.10 variation next to "3rd class" in the Moynier guidebook.
Go do it and don't let the length of the route prevent you from it! It's mostly 4th and easy 5th. However, be prepared for a bit of loose rock here and there.
Dark Star V 5.10b ***
P1-.10b look for an overlap that might still have a stuck stopper loop hanging out of it. Go up the dihedral for 100 feet through some cool laybacking and steming sections. Fixed pin anchor. 100ft
P2- 5.8 continue up the corner and past an old bolt then belay off of a horn. 150ft
P3-.10a go left past a fixed pin, do a step across and continue up fantastic finger cracks, belay at two pins.130ft
P4 .7 up a rt facing corner then up towards a chimney and belay when rope runs out you should be under an overlap.170 ft
P5- .8 up overlap to the base of the chimney.
P6- .8 chimney exit out right-super exposed and airy. 140ft
P7- .8 follow obvious cracks in black rock 120ft
P8- 300 ft of 4th-5th class to the top of the buttress. 300ft
The first 8 pitches might compare to Yosemite's Lower Cathedral east buttress
P9-400ft of 4th class traversing to teh base of the second buttress. 400ft
P10- .8 up steep rock with jugs to a 15ft splitter hand crack in black rock, belay at a pedistal. 100ft
P11- .10b go up a right leaning corner then break a roof at an akward handrack through a bulge.
P12- 500ft of 5th class brings you to the top of the second buttress.
P13- Go around the left side of the butress. 5th
P14- 200ft across a sandy gap then follow the ridge, first on the left then on the ridge its self.
P15-Rap or down climb continue along the ridge to the next rap.
P16-5th class 310ft.
P17- Rap off of a slung block 95ft (or down climb) to third class ledge.
P18- Rap again find slung block that is not obvious, rap into the SE face.
P19- Climb up to the notch on the NW face. Now climb under the big red tower on the ridge where there is yellow lichen.
P20- 400-600 ft of 5th class high stepping takes you to the top of the route.
P21- the summit is still a few hundred feet and some 5th class moves away.
The route as seen from Second Lake.
Photo: Ryan Crochiere
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