Elevation: 4,564 ft
GPS: 36.123, -115.495 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
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Shared By: Larry DeAngelo on Feb 16, 2004
Admins: Larry DeAngelo, Justin Johnsen
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Access Issue: Red Rock RAIN AND WET ROCK: The sandstone is fragile and is very easily damaged when wet. Details


This formation was known as Red Cap back in the sixties. The Mescalito name was given by Red Rock pioneer Jeff Lansing (who coincidentally did the first ascent of the formation's east face). It looks like a cute little summit, dwarfed by much larger mountains on both sides. But do not be fooled; climbing to the summit involves ten or twelve pitches and a noticeable descent effort.

There is quite a wide spectrum of climbing. Cat in the Hat and Dark Shadows are probably the two most popular routes with visiting climbers, and they well deserve their "classic" status. Lots of other climbs are of similar quality; Risky Business, Y2K, Cookie Monster, and a bunch more.

Getting There

Hike west on the main Pine Creek trail. A short distance beyond the mouth of the canyon the streambed forks. Stay to the right for routes from Y2K around toward Dark Shadows. Cross the streambed and work up the south fork for routes from Cookie Monster and left toward Cat in the Hat.

43 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at Mescalito

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b
Cat in the Hat
Trad 6 pitches
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Cookie Monster
Trad 3 pitches
5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b
Pauligk Pillar
Trad 2 pitches
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Dark Shadows
Trad 4 pitches
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Dark Shadows (Full)
Trad 10 pitches
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c
Chasing Shadows
Trad 4 pitches
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
Black Widow Hollow
Trad 3 pitches
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
Trad 4 pitches
5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b
Slot Machine
5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b R
The Walker Spur
Trad 3 pitches
5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
Edge Dressing
Trad, Sport 4 pitches
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b PG13
The Next Century
Trad 2 pitches
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b R
Risky Business
Trad 4 pitches
5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b R
Parental Guidance
Trad 2 pitches
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c R
Excellent Adventure
Trad 3 pitches
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Cat in the Hat Southeast Buttress
5.6 4c 14 V 12 S 4b Trad 6 pitches
Cookie Monster E Face
5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b Trad 3 pitches
Pauligk Pillar E Face
5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b Trad 2 pitches
Dark Shadows Dark Shadows Wall
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad 4 pitches
Dark Shadows (Full) Dark Shadows Wall
5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad 10 pitches
Chasing Shadows Dark Shadows Wall
5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c Trad 4 pitches
Black Widow Hollow E Face
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Trad 3 pitches
Y2K E Face
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Trad 4 pitches
Slot Machine Dark Shadows Wall
5.10 6b 20 VII- 19 E2 5b Trad
The Walker Spur E Face
5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b R Trad 3 pitches
Edge Dressing Dark Shadows Wall
5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b Trad, Sport 4 pitches
The Next Century E Face
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b PG13 Trad 2 pitches
Risky Business Dark Shadows Wall
5.10c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b R Trad 4 pitches
Parental Guidance Dark Shadows Wall
5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b R Trad 2 pitches
Excellent Adventure Dark Shadows Wall
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c R Trad 3 pitches
More Classic Climbs in Mescalito »

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Doug Hemken
Madison, WI
Doug Hemken   Madison, WI  

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. Jan 16, 2007
Doug Hemken
Madison, WI
Doug Hemken   Madison, WI  

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). Jan 18, 2008
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. Oct 4, 2010
Flava Flav
Seattle, WA
Flava Flav   Seattle, WA
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.
May 2, 2014
Hans Bauck
Squamish, BC
Hans Bauck   Squamish, BC
Some beta on the south side descent.

From the summit of the Mescalito we followed a heavily cairned path southwest as per the description on SummitPost. This was extremely easy to follow, and led to a gully that brought us down to the south fork of Pine Canyon, perhaps 200-300 metres up the canyon from the start of Cat in the Hat.

Two rappels were necessary (about 10 metres and 22 metres respectively) from chain anchors. All difficulties were over after these two rappels. Prior to this, and before entering the gully, there were some very short sections of 4th or low 5th class down-climbing. One of these sections seemed tricky enough that we made a short rappel off of a small tree.

I don't know anything about the other descent options but this seemed like a really good way to go. Though I can't be sure, I suspect this is the same descent that Kyle described. Mar 16, 2015
Dan Bachen
Helena, MT
Dan Bachen   Helena, MT
Just thought I would add a little more to the walk off description. First off summiting the formation is cool, and I would highly recommend it. That being said, for us descending off of the summit was a little more stressful than any of the actual climbing. We had planned to use the walk off but got sucked into descending South/ West gully. One of the best moments of the trip was discovering the bolts and confirming that a 60m rope made it to the ground!

From the summit facing back up the ridge, we saw ducks down and to the left. These were easy to follow and took us on a path along the left side of the ridge occasionally descending. We came to a gully and initially considered downclimbing it but saw a path on the other side. We scrambled across this, went behind a large bolder and turned the corner. From here the path descends a wider gully. Following the ducks led us to a smooth exposed slab to a serious 5th class corner down climb. We back tracked and made a short rappel into some brush from a threaded block with a taped carabiner. We then met up with the path which descended some talus to the edge of a large cliff. The ducks led out onto an exposed tongue of rock which was separated from the main cliff by a narrow slot canyon (would be hard to down climb). The exposure is a little severe on the tongue, so we left a few tricams and rapped into the slot. In the slot, we could see a fixed or stuck rope to the right tied off at the bottom. We scrambled to where the slot cliffed out, and it looked grim. We could not see any anchors, and it looked like a rappel would be hard with a single 60m rope. I was considering that maybe the fixed line was placed to ascend to the next gully, but noticed some shiny bolts at the lip. We made a short rap as described, and then a longer one which put us down close to the creek.

I have extensive route finding and multipitch experience in a number of areas across the west, and I can honestly say the route finding and exposed scrambling that were required for the descent put me a little out of my comfort zone. I would not underestimate the complexity of the train if you are choosing to summit, and budget enough time to descend to the creek before dark. Apr 15, 2016
We did pretty much what Dan describes above, except we never found the bolts. Instead, we used the fixed rope as a "safety" (with a prusik -- we didn't weight it, and when we saw the anchor we were glad we didn't) to climb up to the next ledge system west, then downclimbed and slithered through scrub oak to a short rap off a rock horn and then a 35m rap off a tree into the wash. This descent seemed unduly time-consuming and stressful; another time, I'd probably reverse Cat in the Hat. Apr 16, 2016