Back to my attentive audience. Ladies. Worms. This is the TRUE and AUTHENTIC account of our escapade up Dark Star. You will notice many discrepancies with Wes’s poor substitute for a TR. Take pity on Wes, he is old and too much California sun has fried his brain to mush so he just makes sh#t up when he can’t remember.
So Wes Goulding and I partnerd up for a go at Dark Star Aug 3, 2013. We only had the weekend and didn’t have them back-country permits so he suggested we do it car2car. The reported length of this bad-boy started gnawin at me. I buzzed Wes and motioned we hike up around 6pm Friday and bivy under one of them rocks so we could get a hit more ZZZs. A foam pad and light sleeping bag wouldn’t add much in the way of weight, and seemed unlikely we would get hassled by the law at that hour. My idear was met with stone cold silence.
Check out the slideshow on you Tube (with groovy music)
or just search Dark Star car2car.
Dark Star is an awesome route. Many of the lower pitches are quite sustained considering the alpine nature of the route. The miles of easy stuff on the upper sections are a bottomless course of divine desert topping off the feast of stouter pitches below. Or so I persuaded myself as my legs degraded into noodles of pain trying to keep up with Goulding’s furious pace.
Below are a bunch of details I noted about the climb. They are far more useful and accurate than the lies in Goulding’s beta post.
A lot of conflict on past trip reports and the hand-drawn topos we could find.
“Small nuts will do you no good”
“Bring lots of small nuts!”
“Doubles up to 4”
“Just one #3 and nothing larger”
“You can’t have too many slings”
The only consensus was “if you bring bivy gear you will”.
Taking this to heart, here was our gear list:
1.5 liters water each
Extra layers, weather shells, and a hat
5 medium nuts
1x green alien
2x yellow aliens
1x gray alien
1x gray/red hybrid alien
1x red alien
1x orange alien
1x 0.5” camalot
1x 0.75” camalot
2x #1 & #2 camalots
11 slings of assorted sizes, some with 2 biners
5 free biners
2 cordelletes (1 would have been enough)
A 60m 8.5mm rope (just one strand of a pair sold as a double rope system)
Lots of caffeinated shot blocks
Lots of GU packets
More GU and shot blocks
More GU and shot blocks
With a few other sundries we had about 25 lbs each.
Throughout the climb the leader was finding great placements for something large or small and hollerin down “hey did we use them tiny cams in the anchor, I can’t find none on the rack???”. But, really, what we had werked great.
Started 2am, back to car at midnight.
3 hours up to 3rd lake
1 hour to the base of the approach pitches
12 hours to summit ridge
3 hours of talus back down to 3rd lake (my quads were neigh give out by end of this)
3 hours to car
This is for 2 old guys who drove up from sea level the afternoon before. So you youngsters should be faster.
We found that the hand-drawn topo that Chris Mac posted on supertopo matched the route very well.
To git up to the official start of the climb we went up the 500’ cliff band below instead of going further up the talus and cutting right across the wide ledge. Lots of options here. Ours had a short 15 foot section of maybe 5.6 about 40’ off the deck, but was otherwise all 5.4 or less so it goes real fast.
The 10b first pitch is certainly the crux of the climb. Wes led that one. The crack was often shallow, flaring, or contorted, and pro was not as good as I would have liked. Foot and handholds to the right of this right-facing dihedral are generally lacking. Wes found lots of good opportunities to move left onto better holds on the aręte for short sections. I think I remember that the fixed pins were missing at top of pitch #1. Pitch 2 continued up the dihedral at sustained 5.8, really nice. The first 5-8 feet of the thin 10a section of the 3rd pitch protected well with a green alien and maybe a #4 or 5 black-diamond nut, then there was a big chink in the otherwise thin, laser-cut crack that took a #2 camalot higher up. Several features to the left made it much less physical and tenuous than the 1st pitch. Simuling pitches 4 & 5 saved a lot of time. It was impossible to communicate though, so pre-coordinate this. I didn’t which resulted in me doin my best to drag Wes up the cliff despite the fact he was still attached to the anchors.
BTW, right in the anatomical middle of the buttress I passed the amazing 10” crystal in the picture below. Dark Star Buttress has a great view of Sun Goddess Aręte from here. Near the top of Dark Star is a big red face, blushing?
I won’t spoil pitch 5, Wes led it and it was way cool! For pitch 7, start in the crack maybe 6 feet right of the belay. The topo says “obvious crack in black rock”, but it didn’t seem black or obvious to me. Seemed like lots of options once you got 40 feet up. Recommend stopping immediately as soon as you get to easy ledges, belay your partner up, then pack up the rope until you get the base of the 2nd buttress. All the terrain between is easy.
We started the lower face of the 2nd buttress right where the talus peaks against it. The route (pitches 10&11) matched the topo well. Had to wander left and right quite a bit on the lower steep face part to find good pro and the easiest path. I found this pitch thought provoking and sustained for 5.8!! Oh, watch the holds involving white crystals. They tend to be crumbly. One came off in my hand as I made a dynamic move off it, but fortunately my momentum carried me to the next hold. I tried to bean Goulding’s head with the shard as a lesson for not wearing a helment, but missed. There is plenty of loose stuff on Dark Star. We had originally planned I would do 10&11, linking them if possible. But I used up all my gear on 10. I told Wes he should take the next pitch since it would avoid losing time reconfiguring the rope (not because the next one was reportedly two grades harder than the one that had just scared the sh#t out of me.) I’m glad he took it the 11th pitch is no 5.10 gimme.
The rest of the climb is loads of fun, miles and miles of scrambling and easy 5th terrain along knife ridges and around towers and gendarms with amazing views and exposure. Just say no to bivy!!! Route finding confusing at time. We did a single rappel somewhere between belay 12 and 15 that was not marked on the topo we used. There was a big tower right afterward we found it easiest to go left around.
I lost a red approach shoe somewhere along here probably when I took them off to squeeze through a short chasm.
At the very end of the exposed ledge with yellow lichen below the big red tower there is a 12 foot 5.3-4 downclimb before you continue traversing to the right.