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By Doug Hemken
Jan 16, 2007
Descent from Mescalito:Quite a few different routes have been found to get off the summit of Mescalito. Figuring out and forging your own route can be part of the adventure.
One approach has been to reverse/head down the upper pitches of Cat in the Hat, involving a rappel near the summit (bolted anchor), lots of down-climbing, and rappelling the 'regular' route. This probably isn't a good option unless you've come up this way once, and you are comfortable on third/fourth class terrain without a rope. But if you have the route wired, it may well be the fastest way down.
A second approach, perhaps the oldest and most traditional approach, is to head west from the summit and drop into Fern Canyon (the N Fork of Pine Creek). Most reports indicate you can expect a lot of route finding and a rappel or two to get down the final bit, although there is at least one report of a descent to the North that required no rappels. This is probably a good option if you summit during the hot months, as the north facing descent is vegetated and may have some shade. Allow a couple of hours of daylight for route finding to the bottom of the canyon if this is your first time down here. Bring some spare rap slings if, like me, you often find yourself off-route, or if you just want to rap.
The third approach is to head west from the summit and follow the 'hiking route' down the south side into Mescalito Canyon (one branch of the S Fork of Pine Creek). There are several variations on the southern descent, some of which involve rappels, and some that I've heard described as "brushy", but if you stick to the 'hiking route' there is very little brush or exposed scrambling -you can do it in sneakers- and there are lots of cairns to mark the way.
From the summit, the hiking route heads west, contouring around the south side of the summit on broad red ledges, picking up cairns almost immediately. As you come around to the notch west of the summit, you scramble and downclimb the last section into the gap, and then begin immediately climbing up to the next summit west. Stay near the ridgeline as you scramble up (there are lots of cairns). Cross over the very top of the next summit (higher than Mescalito's summit) and continue west along the ridge into an indistinct gap marked by a long-leaf pine, a tiny manzanita in the very gap, a cairn, and a pinyon pine. Head down to the south for the big broad ledge system below. Follow this west, watching for cairns. As you near the west end of this ledge system, you have to scramble down some rocky steps following the cairns toward some more big pinyon pines. The final bit to the creek bed scrambles 100-200 feet down a loose dirty gully. The hike back east along the creek bed is very easy with only a couple of drop-offs to bypass.
The whole hike from summit to car took me an easy 2.5 hours, having just hiked up this route, and about the same on another day with partners and a pack full of climbing gear.
The 'hiking route' follows the black,teal and light green lines on this map from H.W. Stockman:
And Jerry Handren has a nice photo of the first part of the descent on his web site, RedRocksGuidebook.com
I would recommend starting the descent to the notch on the South side of the ridge, rather than the North side as Handren indicates, but obviously both work.
By Doug Hemken
Jan 18, 2008
The Final Pitch
Any of the routes that join "Cat in the Hat" offer the opportunity to summit Mescalito. Going to the summit adds at least 1 quality star to any route you do on the SE side of Mescalito.
From the "summit" of "Cat in the Hat" you scramble up to the red summit block and, after crossing a notch in the ridge (either side works), enter the Big Red Chimney. There are at least 3 ways to climb this final pitch: (1) stay in the chimney, mostly easy with a few burly 5.7 moves, take a couple of pieces to 5" (hexes work well), (2) exit the chimney to a brushy ledge on the left, continue up the featured face to the left (5.6/5.7 r/x ?? one of my partner TR'd this), or (3) from the brushy ledge continue straight up the worn dihedral (no pro, we didn't test this route).
Oct 4, 2010
The best descent off Mescalito that I've done is this:
From the summit, traverse west along the ridge until an easy scramble (cairns) leads down and right towards the big ledge (the same that Dark Shadows ends on). Pick up cairns and follow then west, over a notch and into a large bowl that drains north/right. Follow cairns across the bowl, then back to the far right side, aiming for the furthest right gully. Scramble down this gully about 100' until a fixed anchor is found. A double rope rap leads to a gully. Walk down about 300' to a rap anchor at a tree. Another 40m (two ropes) rap drops you back into the north fork of Pine Creek about 5 minutes upstream from the start of Dark Shadows.
If descending from the big ledge of Dark Shadows, cross the ledge to the right. At the lowpoint of the ledge (before the obvious gendarme, the rappel route of Peyote Power starts near some trees (6x 2 rope raps). Continue across the ledge to the gendarme and climb the 25m face between the two obvious chimneys/slots (5.4?). Continue across the ledge until the notch described above is reached.
By Kyle Willis
From: Beavertron, Oregon
May 2, 2014
After doing Dark Shadows and Deep Space to the summit, I've used the same chimney/gulley rappel descent each time. Since no one on here seems to have put down any information about it, and someone's been down there in the two months between my two climbs...there have been some changes down there.
From the summit, head down following cairns in a south westerly direction, mainly staying on low angle slabs and worn trails. Can't see a trail or carin? Probably going the wrong way if you feel like you might die, it's pretty easy. Having done it last time in the dark a few days ago, it took us quite a while to navigate to the rappel descent. You'll come to a down climb of grey rock, which might be 20 ft of hard 3rd class. In the dark it looks worse, I suppose. From here, you're in a gully sea of brush. You'll descend a bit more, the gully narrows and becomes scrambling, and poof! Drop off and rappel station with peach webbing and purple 6 mil.
In the light, probably 15-20 minutes. In the dark, and kind of remembering where I was going 40 minutes. All the rappels on this descent I am certain are good on a 60m rope, EXCEPT from the threaded anchor/short rappel to a chockstone. The first time I did this rappel was on a 70m, to the chockstone, then another rappel. The second time I did it I chose to skip the chockstone and use a double 60m rope rappel. If you did come up short, you might/could down chimney/offwidth the last few feet. You're call on that chockstone rap, It looked somewhat unsavory this time around. All the stations are natural anchors, some more interesting than others. One involves an single strand extension of three cords to two opposed biners. There are also two fixed ropes that look ok, I rappelled down them the first time. It's a fun descent, and interesting to see all the finaglery down there. I think we counted 9-10 single rope rappels for certain with a 70m. Bring your own cord/webbing/rings and back this stuff up if you are so inclined.
I left a green/blue cordalette and two biners at the (hand over hand on a freyed/faded/knotted) 7-8 mil cord that's precariously wrapped around two trees. Just keep rappelling down the full 60m and to the (climbers) right and down on the slabs and you're done! It's protected from sun and wind, and hikers. Proceed through the South Fork East, if you find something hard in the wash, there's an easier way around it.