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Black Dagger

5.11a, Trad, Alpine, 3 pitches, Grade IV,  Avg: 3.8 from 45 votes
FA: Roger Dalke & Wayne Goss, 1967, FFA Duncan Ferguson & Lisa Schassberger late '70s or early '80s
Colorado > Alpine Rock > RMNP - Rock > Long's Peak > Diamond
Access Issue: Seasonal Closures Details


From Broadway ledge, follow the first two pitches of D7 or the Yellow Wall to Crossover Ledge. From here, the first pitch of the Black Dagger will become evident as the shallow, left-facing corner.

P1. Climb up the steep dihedral until you reach a splitter hand crack (thin hands). The crack widens to 4" for a series of exhilarating moves then returns to thin hands. 5.11a. 160 feet.

P2. Begin with steep finger jams. After 30 feet, you will reach the base of the Black Dagger chimney (this is the obvious, dagger-shaped chimney visible from Chasm Lake - and I-25 for that matter). The crux is grunting your way through a squeeze / slot that leads from the splitter crack below to the elevator shaft / chimney above (5.11a). The 80-foot chimney is enjoyable 5.7 when dry, but reputed to be wet at times. Belay at the top of the chimney below a large, ominous roof.

P3. Begin by exiting the Black Dagger chimney via the looming roof overhead. Stem your way to the edge of the roof (you will need double-long runners on any protection below the roof). Pull the roof and kick your feet out onto the face - very exciting! Above the roof, you will want a directional as the rope easily becomes stuck in the roof. There are two options from here - straight up is 5.11a OW with a bolt. Otherwise, traverse right about six feet and follow an incipient hand crack for 80 feet. Traverse left approximately 20 feet to Almost Table Ledge.

Rappel to Broadway.


Rack to #4 Camalot, doubles or triples helpful especially in the #0.5 - #2 range.

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

Deep in the Dagger.
[Hide Photo] Deep in the Dagger.
Looking down into the point of the Dagger.
[Hide Photo] Looking down into the point of the Dagger.
Tom Sciolino pulling out of the Dagger.
[Hide Photo] Tom Sciolino pulling out of the Dagger.
A party on the last or second to last pitch (?). Taken from the rap route....
[Hide Photo] A party on the last or second to last pitch (?). Taken from the rap route....
Mismatched shoes and bloody toes--what happens when you do hundreds of feet of handcracks in an Anasazi velcro.
[Hide Photo] Mismatched shoes and bloody toes--what happens when you do hundreds of feet of handcracks in an Anasazi velcro.
Pat following the first 11a pitch off Crossover Ledge; party below is coming up Yellow Wall.
[Hide Photo] Pat following the first 11a pitch off Crossover Ledge; party below is coming up Yellow Wall.
Pat following the first 11a pitch above off of Crossover Ledge.
[Hide Photo] Pat following the first 11a pitch above off of Crossover Ledge.
Pat leading the pitch into the Dagger, which we felt to be the crux.
[Hide Photo] Pat leading the pitch into the Dagger, which we felt to be the crux.
Looking up at the Black Dagger (left) and Forrest Finish (right) pitches above Table Ledge.
[Hide Photo] Looking up at the Black Dagger (left) and Forrest Finish (right) pitches above Table Ledge.
Corey stemming the Dagger.
[Hide Photo] Corey stemming the Dagger.

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

David A. Turner
[Hide Comment] This route has some of the best splitter cracks I have found in the Park so far. On par with the crux pitch of Topnotch and the splitters on Days of Heaven.Going out the roof that caps the chimney is unbelievable. A great route.

The route description above, which tracks Rossiter's description, did not match quite perfectly for us. We did some non-descript climbing to the right of Crossover Ledge to get to the 4" crack, which takes gear in the back of it. This crack is just to the left of the Forrest Finish and the start of Yellow Wall's A4 traverse pitch. Rossiter suggests face climbing to the left of the crack, but that seemed nonexistent. Afterwards, its about 80 feet of mostly 1" crack to a good ledge.

The next pitch is fingers and hands for about 100 feet and then an awkward section into the chimney. I thought getting off the belay ledge was way harder than getting into the chimney. This pitch is about 150 feet.

After pulling through the roof, my partner was unable to find the insipient hand crack. (How can a hand crack be insipient?). He combined about three cracks together in a rising rightward diagonal to Almost Table. It was wild, exposed and hard. Sep 3, 2002
[Hide Comment] This is a spectacular Diamond route. Burly in sections with beautiful cracks in others. Some beta (skip the next two paragraphs if you don't want it):

There is most certainly a way to face climb around the ominous slot on the first pitch above Crossover Ledge. I didn't notice it until after I grovelled through the slot (#4 Camalot), which was undoubtedly the crux of the climb for me. The face climbing section is to the RIGHT of the slot and follow thin edges protected by a fixed nut and then a Lost Arrow... it looks way easier than the slot. Above this section, the crack climbing on this pitch is amazing with a definite lieback crux coming at the very end of the pitch getting to a slopey ledge (you can also belay on the flatter ledge 20 feet below this).

I think "incipient hand cracks" describes the last pitch perfectly. After pulling out of the chimney, you traverse a ledge slightly right to twin flaring hand cracks. I followed the right one (the left peters out after about 30 feet), which involved flaring and insecure hand jamming which was difficult to protect at times... in other words, incipient. I found this "10b" section to be nearly as difficult as the 10d/11a sections below. The 5.10 fists above the chimney (with the crappy old bolt) looks more splitter, but you'll probably want more gear in the #3 Camalot to #4 Friend size.

Spectacular! Jul 18, 2003
[Hide Comment] Going straight up the wide crack (with the bolt) after the Dagger pitch is good 5.10, and protects fine with just a single 4 Camalot (slide it with you). It will be exciting, but you will be OK. Unless of course you would rather sew it up. P.S. Watch getting the rope stuck at the top of the Dagger. -SL Jul 21, 2003
Bosier Parsons
Colorado Springs, CO
[Hide Comment] Joe's comments are correct.If you want to avoid the slot on the pitch above crossover ledge, it's easy to face climb on the right (I think Rossiter just type-errored saying to the left).

Exiting the Dagger on the right side is the way to go if you then step right immediately above the roof. This ledge is small (about 6 inches wide), and if done correctly your rope should not get stuck. The wide crack above the roof should be climbed only if exiting the Dagger on the left crack, again avoiding getting ropes stuck.

This is a beautiful climb. You will absolutely love the chimney climbing and roof exit. Classic. Jul 10, 2004
Steve Annecone
[Hide Comment] An outstanding route and a really compelling line when viewed up close or at a distance.... what a line this is! I did this a few years ago and the weather progressed from light rain to graupel to strong snow and wind. By then we were too high to consider retreat and kept heading upward, and finally topped out near 5 pm, but not before being thoroughly worked.

I'll never forget traversing left at the top along Table Ledge, with frozen hands, wet and cold holds, snow whipping horizontally and almost zero visibility, and absolute trust that I "should" make it because it's only 5.8....I barely made it!

I felt the offwidth pitch was solid 5.10+, especially when wet. The first 5.11a pitch above that felt desperate and sustained....reminded me of Butterballs in Yosemite.... I would have guessed 5.11+ but perhaps the moisture was making things feel less secure. The pitch above that felt much easier to me even though they have the same grade. Do this route, it is beautiful and a quintessential Diamond climb! Jul 28, 2005
Dave Stewart
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] My partner and I combined this route with the start of D7. We got on at the Dagger pitch. It was an awesome full value pitch. I liked the added touch of having to jam around small colonies of Kings Crowns in the hand crack. A little beta about chimneying out the roof: I climbed it with my back against the climber's left wall. My partner did it with his back on the opposite. With your back on the left wall, I simply, albeit strenuously, reached across to my toes to initiate a lieback. I pulled on solid holds and danced my feet on shuttle friction until I was able to reach around the roof and get a hand jam. Spectacular. The first pitches of D7 were really fun too. Jul 2, 2006
Jeff G
[Hide Comment] This is an incredible and sustained line up the wall. We did two long pitches on D7 to cross-over ledge then started up towards the Dagger. The back to back 11a pitches off of cross-over ledge are excellent and a real test of jamming skills and fitness. The exit out of the Dagger is fantastic, some of the wildest stuff I've done up on the Diamond! Jul 26, 2006
Jeff Barnow
Boulder Co
[Hide Comment] Roger Dalke and Wayne Goss have the FA of this route in 1967. They did it at the same time that Briggs and Logan did the second ascent of D7. Nov 13, 2006
Malcolm Daly
Boulder, CO
[Hide Comment] I think Duncan Ferguson and Lisa Schassberger did the FFA on this in the late '70s or early '80s. They rated it 10+. Bill Alexander and I did the 2nd ascent a week or so later. We didn't know any better so we confirmed the grade. It was my most memorable ascent on the Diamond. It was raining in Ft. Collins when we woke, raining at the ranger station and raining at Jim's Grove. Finally ar Chasm cutoff we rose above the clouds and climbed in beautiful weather all day. It was like being on a island and the sun reflecting off the cloud tops in the morning made it t-shirt and shorts 'til noon. Don't remember much about it other than the WILD climbing out of and above the roof and the total sketch through the incipient cracks.
Mal Nov 30, 2006
Fort Collins
[Hide Comment] The climbing on this route felt more burly and sustained than other routes I've done on the Diamond. Phenomenal crack climbing. We were fine with doubles to a #2 Camalot and a single #3 (probably didn't need the #3). Finish on the Forrest Finish headwall pitches for a full-value day. Aug 13, 2010
El Manzano
[Hide Comment] Definitely some loose stuff inside of the dagger. Be careful when climbing through that section especially if there are parties below.

This route doesn't appear to get the traffic it deserves, quite a bit of vegetation on the pitch getting into the dagger. Aug 9, 2011
[Hide Comment] Really wild climbing with some preposterous exposure on the chimney pitch. There is a fixed 0.4 in the crack on the climber's right in the exit moves of the chimney pitch; I would recommend placing gear lower in the chimney (with extended runners) and then wait to place protection until you can clip that fixed piece, which is now also backed up with a fixed nut my partner and I left. I placed gear towards the back corner of the chimney, because I was scared and thought the moves out towards the lip would be hard, but even with double extended runners, this made the rope drag horrendous. The moves were actually quite secure exciting the dagger up until reaching that fixed piece. My back was up against the wall to the climber's left, and I believe this is the easiest way to do the exit moves out of the chimney. We did not get to climb the excellent and exciting looking wide crack above due to a snowstorm, but the chimney provided excellent cover while my partner and I snacked on cold pizza and relaxed while preparing to rappel, watching unbelievably pretty updrafts of light fluffy snow blow come up from below our feet.

Previous comments are correct about face climbing to the right instead of the left of the crack above crossover ledge (P1). The crux pitch for me was the end of the hard climbing of P2, hard, mungy, vegetated moves exiting the hand/fist crack after a long pitch of 5.11- climbing with burning forearms at altitude. Sep 3, 2016