Saturday, March 1. Dark Shadows is a truly spectacular 5.8 route. It rises 400 feet up a large, dark, almost black corner in Pine Creek canyon.
A clear mountain stream runs around pine trees and big rocks right at its base. The first move is a step from a boulder, over the creek and onto the face. Since doing nearby Rawlpindi, Marc and I have been talking about Dark Shadows and trying to work up the courage to attempt this intimidating climb.
We persuaded Johnny Ray to joins us in the effort. We got an early (5 a.m.) start because Marc had to be back by mid afternoon for a Church commitment. The faint first rays of the sun were hitting the Red Rock walls as we racked up in the parking lot. I was not feeling very spry, so I told Marc and Johnny they could split up the leads.
Marc led the first two pitches, which we all agreed were more than a tad harder than their 5.5 and 5.6 ratings. So much for those “soft” Red Rock ratings my Gunks buddies told me about.
Pitch three (5,8) is one of the best I have ever climbed. It feels like one of those awesome alpine corners often pictured in the glossy climbing mags. It’s the real deal. Johnny did a very nice lead about 150 feet up the huge black corner, placing plenty of good pro. Marc followed and then it was my turn. The crux is a flaring off-width crack near the start. I proved my wisdom in not leading by falling out of it. On my second attempt I made it without much trouble, wondering all the while how I had contrived to fall on my first effort.
The last pitch is a nice featured crack with a flaring off-width pod about half way up. Johnny led up to the pod and worked on it for about 30 minutes, before deciding he was not willing to lead it. Neither Marc nor I jumped at the chance to try, so the intrepid trio rapped off. It was quite windy and we were afraid our ropes would get blown across the adjacent face and stuck. Marc solved the problem by showing us how to make saddle bags of coiled rope that hung on his hips and paid out as he rapped. I had never seen this technique before, but it worked great.
Frustrating? A bit. We sure would liked to have climbed the last 40 or so feet. But just to try a route like Dark Shadows makes for a rewarding day. We were up against some big rock, and today did not have quite enough for it. That is one of the things that makes this sport so addictive. The rock is just there. It was here long before we were and was not made for us to climb. It is a force of nature against which we are privileged to test ourselves. What would be the joy in succeeding if we never failed?
It looks like Marc and I will get out for one more climb on Tuesday and then I will head home.
Note for Jean and Annie: Tori seemed subdued today. No whining or complaining. She even seemed to enjoy the first pitch, which is 70 feet of thin face climbing protected by two bolts. She asked me, "What is an equallette?"
Photos from top: Approximate route of Dark Shadows; Marc leading pitch 2; Bill following the pitch 3 corner (photo Marc J.); Johnny working on the pitch 4 crux; Johnny Ray; Marc, Bill and Johnny.