Description

The name says it all. Dark rock, in the shade, and a good choice for pulling limestone pockets on a hot day. This excellent crag offers a somewhat unique experience from other crags in the main Shelf area. This is one of the "old school" crags at Shelf, with bolting & grading more in line with the original lines at The Bank, Sand Gulch & The Gallery. If you're used to Cactus Cliff style bolting, be prepared for spaced-out bolts, and be prepared to supplement some routes with gear.

As for the climbing, many of the walls are relatively slabby, with fluted black rock that can be uncommonly sharp in places. There are numerous longer lines, but generally the routes here are shorter than those at Cactus or The Gym. Overall the route quality is excellent, despite the mysterious sparsity of stars in the latest guidebook from Sharp End.

Finally, despite the name, in the height of summer, when shade is at a premium, this crag bakes in the sun 'till mid-day. Thankfully the crags sickle-shape provides shade for the East end of the crag a bit earlier (~10am). There are a number of dihedrals that provide earlier shade for routes such as Punjabi, and the routes around Suspender Man.

Getting There

There are two ways to approach the Dark Side, depending on the routes you're headed for. Park at the newly expanded parking lot just past The Bank campground for both approaches.

For routes on the West end of the cliff, hike down from the parking area toward the Bank. Shortly after the road drops down a bit you can pick up a trail to the right. This trail will take you to the 2150 Wall, Cactus, etc, or to The Dark Side by staying hard right ~15 feet after leaving the road. Head East just below the cliff band, where you will encounter various scrambling sections not suitable for young kids.

For routes on the East end of the cliff, hike ~100 yds back down the road, towards Canon City, to a turnoff on the left (N) side of the road that leads to the Group Camp site. Walk towards the Group site, which is surrounded by a ridiculous fence. Once you reach the fence pick up a faint trail that heads East along the fence line. Follow this for ~30 yds to the cliff band atop the bank. Locate a fixed rope or two, and down climb the 3rd class chimney to the base of the cliff. There are ~5 routes located East of this downclimb, but the rest of the routes are to the West. The first route encountered to the West of the downclimb is "Slap Me".

64 Total Climbs

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Classic Climbing Routes at The Dark Side

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes in this area.
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a
 210
Lumina
Sport
5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a
 90
Fight or Flight
Sport
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
 56
Black 'N Dicey
Sport
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
 83
27 Tons
Sport
5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a
 123
Teenage Wristband
Sport
5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b
 35
Unknown But Worth Doing
Sport
5.10c/d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b
 118
Porkus Procurement
Sport
5.10c/d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b
 68
Corner Pockets
Sport
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
 201
Enchanted Porkfist
Sport
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c
 26
Crown of Thorns aka Box Lunch a…
Sport
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c
 53
Muted by Reality
Sport
5.11b/c 6c+ 23 VIII- 24 E4 6a
 25
Two Hearts
Sport
5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a
 65
Suspender Man
Sport
5.12a/b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6a
 29
Blank Frank
Sport
5.12b/c 7b+ 27 IX- 27 E6 6b
 9
The Audition
Sport
Route Name Location Star Rating Difficulty Date
Lumina
 210
5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a Sport
Fight or Flight
 90
5.9+ 5c 17 VI 17 E1 5a Sport
Black 'N Dicey
 56
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Sport
27 Tons
 83
5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Sport
Teenage Wristband
 123
5.10- 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a Sport
Unknown But Worth Doing
 35
5.10b/c 6b 20 VII 20 E2 5b Sport
Porkus Procurement
 118
5.10c/d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b Sport
Corner Pockets
 68
5.10c/d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b Sport
Enchanted Porkfist
 201
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Sport
Crown of Thorns aka Box Lu…
 26
5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c Sport
Muted by Reality
 53
5.11b 6c 23 VIII- 23 E3 5c Sport
Two Hearts
 25
5.11b/c 6c+ 23 VIII- 24 E4 6a Sport
Suspender Man
 65
5.12a 7a+ 25 VIII+ 25 E5 6a Sport
Blank Frank
 29
5.12a/b 7b 26 VIII+ 26 E5 6a Sport
The Audition
 9
5.12b/c 7b+ 27 IX- 27 E6 6b Sport
More Classic Climbs in The Dark Side »

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Interesting route, worth doing. Crux on arete and at chains. Probably 11c or 11b/c. Oct 13, 2005
b hof
Santa Clarita, CA
b hof   Santa Clarita, CA
Directly below site 7 there is a small pinyon with webbing to make a clean rappel to Corner Pockets. Jun 12, 2012
JenH
Colorado Springs, CO
JenH   Colorado Springs, CO
There are 3 bolted routes between Bonnie and Fight or Flight. I'm curious of the grades of the routes. Mar 15, 2015
@JenH-
I climbed these newer routes today. IMO, for what it's worth...
L to R
9+ : Fight or Flight.
10c/d : Cheese Cracker Stacker.
11a/b : Not Yo Daddy's Roof Pull (but the roof pull right before the anchors is easily a 12 move).

Disclaimer: I made up the name's of the last two routes myself, since I haven't found ANY documentation on them. Aug 30, 2015