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Heart of Darkness

5.11a, Trad, 40 ft (12 m),  Avg: 3.7 from 340 votes
FA: Jim Thornburg, 1990
California > Joshua Tree NP > Central Joshua… > Sheep Pass Area > Oyster Bar Area > Conrad Rock > Conrad Rock - Heart o…


A striking splitter on perfect, varnished rock that runs from fingers through small hands (this route favors those with smaller hands). The unique location and high quality rock make this a three (out of five) star route; were it longer this would garner more stars.


The striking crack on the west (left) side of the corridor.


Gear to 2 inches, bolted anchor/rap

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Plugging in the last piece!
[Hide Photo] Plugging in the last piece!
Just left da pod
[Hide Photo] Just left da pod
Heart of Darkness
[Hide Photo] Heart of Darkness
Great photos from the entrance to the gulley
[Hide Photo] Great photos from the entrance to the gulley
Dave just past the heart shaped dish in the middle of Heart of Darkness
[Hide Photo] Dave just past the heart shaped dish in the middle of Heart of Darkness
Zack Stillwater hikes your proj barefoot
[Hide Photo] Zack Stillwater hikes your proj barefoot
Michelle jammin at the top
[Hide Photo] Michelle jammin at the top
Rita sending HOD
[Hide Photo] Rita sending HOD
At the anchor
[Hide Photo] At the anchor
From the base
[Hide Photo] From the base
[Hide Photo] Splitter!
Wes starting out on his send
[Hide Photo] Wes starting out on his send

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

Lassitude 33
[Hide Comment] Only 3 out of 5 stars (despite the excellent quality of crack and rock) because it is just too short. 5.11a is about right, the crux is only about a body length long. Apr 9, 2003
Adam Kimmerly
[Hide Comment] A fun little route! I'd even lean toward 5.10d for skinny little hands like mine. Most definitely hand size dependent. Oct 31, 2007
armand rollice
rancho cucamonga
[Hide Comment] Did this route one cold and windy day.My friend Jack led it first then had to retreat due to numb very cold hands. So I gave a go. Got to were it starts overhanging and then my fingers got numb. So I had to take, put on my gloves warmed up and then sent it right after. (Without the gloves of course). Returned a few month later and fell towards the top. Awesome climb beautiful rock. Wish it was longer. Feb 27, 2008
Bowie Pearson
Portland, OR
[Hide Comment] If you have small hands like I do (even .75's can still be tight hands for me), this is manageable and not a 5.11. My only beta is to avoid plugging up the #1 pods with gear. Super fun. Just wish it were longer! Seems to be good for both hot days and for cold, windy days. Dec 7, 2008
[Hide Comment] I'll go with 5.10d on this one. For reference, I think it feels a touch easier than, say, Jaws (.11a) at Mt. Woodson. However, handsize can be a factor on this crack. Given that this climb never receives sun, its perfect for those unpleasantly warm days. Oct 11, 2009
[Hide Comment] Funny, for my hand size I say Mt. Woodson's Jaws is easier... still, 11a seemed about right for me. Fun climb - wish JTree had more and longer splitters like this! Oct 26, 2009
Nick Sullens
[Hide Comment] In my opinion, the crux jamming on Heart of Darkness was about the same difficulty as the thin jamming section of Lunatic Fringe and I have bigger hands. May 31, 2010
J Frost
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] Don't have particularly small hands and still found it to be 5.10+. You can climb the whole upper section on hand jams (used perhaps one ring lock - thin hand jam). Dec 14, 2010
[Hide Comment] It kind of adds another little crux – keeping it more solid at 11a – if you mantel out at the top. I suspect many people clip the chains while hanging from the flake at the lip. Fair enough, it's technically still a send, but you're missing out on the final crux – and punting on J-Tree style – if you don't top out. There's something really satisfying when you find yourself suddenly out of the darkness, basking in the glow of a desert sunset. Apr 1, 2014
King Tut
Citrus Heights
[Hide Comment] Before inexperienced climbers go calling this 5.10 keep in mind that a Master of Thin Hands, Dale Bard, put this up and called it 5.11...I may be the biggest whiner ever about having big hands but having done every single 5.10d thin hands in Yosemite as well as Kaukulator (5.11c) this is *not* 5.10...dupid skinny handed people....>:0....Though criticism as a one move or two wonder is valid.

However, I may be biased having belayed Jimmy on his ascent and finding it hard myself...:(. But thin hands on overhanging rock is not 5.10...consider yourself fortunate if this size suits you and base your rating please on other experience on thin hands.

Best rock quality in JT. Dec 19, 2016
master gumby
[Hide Comment] Went back to this rig today and finished it in my boulder x approach shoes. Honestly feels soft for .11a, reminds me .10c at woodson (jaws).....

Also if O'kelly's is .10c how can this be .11a? Nov 30, 2018
redeyedjedi III
San Diego, CA
[Hide Comment] you're gonna like the way you jam w/ small hands, I can't guarantee it with meaty claws though. beautiful splitter either way! Feb 3, 2019
Yannick Gingras
On the road, mostly Southwest
[Hide Comment] Amazing line, perfect pro the whole way. It it a bit short, but it's full value. Agreed with D-Storm that you should top out.

One of the bolts on the anchor is in pretty bad shape. Apr 26, 2019
jt newgard
San Diego, CA
[Hide Comment] I had to work harder on the following climbs than I did on Heart of Darkness:

Perpetual Motion, 10d thin hands — barely got it on TR
Light Sabre, 10b flared fingers boulder problem — hangdog lead
Meteorite Crack, 10c fingers and thin hands — onsight lead
Left Banana Crack, 10b fingers and awkward hands around bulge — onsight lead
Right Banana Crack, 11a very steep hands — hangdog lead
Frontal Lobotomy, 10b fingers lieback— onsight lead

For this reason me and my gold camalot hands feel 100% confident downgrading this climb to 10c. Would be tempted to go even further but I’ll acknowledge it was easier to flash it after belaying my friend on his onsight.

Also think of the above list as recommended climbs if you enjoyed Heart of Darkness. Except instead of a fancy algorithm doing the thinking, it’s just some dumb guy on the internet.

P.S. It’s a nice crack but ultimately I find myself enjoying the funkier jtree climbs moreso than a straight crack like this one. Dec 19, 2020