Type: Trad, 1000 ft, 8 pitches, Grade V
FA: Harvey Miller, Reggie Slavens
Page Views: 2,640 total · 15/month
Shared By: Anonymous Coward on May 14, 2004
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

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Access Issue: Seasonal Raptor Closures Details
Access Issue: Rockfall potential closes some routes! Details


This is a route that doesn't get done much and the approach is a little difficult. You'll notice the word moss used numerous times in the route description here, which should attest to the popularity of this climb (moss has terrible friction characteristics by the way). Black Shadow Arete climbs the arête on the climbers left side of the Chillumstone Gully. All of the bolts on the route should be replaced as most of them are rusted __ bolts with Leeper hangers. A direct finish on the last pitch up the arête would be nicer way to end the climb if someone were to replace the bolts. The topo in the guide book was wrong for many of the pitches. There is some nice climbing in places on the route, but expect an adventure more than anything. The climb begins just barely above river level so expect a long day. Keep in mind the 8 pitches described here only take you half way up the canyon. The pitch lengths that say 160' I used as a default length as I couldn't remember exactly. Give or take some.

Finding the Route: (allow aprx. 1 _ hrs. if things go well) Park at the Devils Lookout and walk down river to where you will see a 20 mph sign that indicates a windy road. The trail starts here and is faint. Head down toward some pine trees and follow the trail through loose dirt and lots of bushes (which make for great handholds if you have to come back up!). At the Chillumstone, the anchors (as of 5/17/04 were a couple of old pins and a bolt, seemed to be reasonably safe) are on the skiers right. A 140' rappel commits you to the adventure. Just below the Chillumstone, notice a ledge on your right. This ledge leads you to the top of the gully that Black Shadow Arete begins in. Do not go this way, but if you rappel off Mirror Wall Ledge, you might be coming back out here. Continue down the Chillumstone Gully to the next bushy ledge leading across the rock fin on the skier's right. Bushwack across this and at the end of the ledge there will be some slings wrapped around a rock horn. You'll want to bring some slings to back up what's there and a quicklink would be a nice addition as well. Make a 200' rappel through bushes and a small patch of poison ivy into the gully. Descend the gully a short ways to the arête of the wall on the skier's right which is just above the river. The climb begins in a right facing corner and leads to the top of a pillar.

Pitch 1 (180' 5.9) Climb a right facing corner past some loose blocks and flakes out a small roof and into a left facing corner. Belay on top of the pillar.

Pitch 2 (100' 5.10) Climb up the thin crack above the pillar and head left beneath a small roof and continue up a groove. Step right into the next crack system or continue up the same one to a ledge with old slings (plan on adding some more if you want to rappel here).

Pitch 3 (160' 5.10+/5.11-) Climb up a left facing corner that arches left at the top. Two cracks appear on the face above. The right one looks real mossy. Take the left one and make 5.10+/5.11- face moves above your gear to a ledge once the crack peters out. It's possible to move right into the right crack however it sports bush and moss. Belay on the mossy ledge. There's an old bolt at the belay.

Pitch 4 (160'? 5.10) Two cracks are above you. On the left is a right facing corner and on the right is a left facing flake. Take the right facing flake. Midway through the pitch you'll move into the left crack for a few moves and back right again. Belay at the top of the crack on a ledge.

Pitch 5 (100' 5.9) Move right and downclimb off the ledge to another ledge. Move right into the next crack. After about 25' this turns to perfect hands and good fun. The good hands crack opens up to a corner with blocks. Belay at an old bolt at the base of an off-width or continue up and link the next pitch.

Pitch 6 (60-70' 5.11-) Climb the off-width (a #4 Camalot crack) up a steepening headwall. It's possible to lieback the steep part, however getting back into the crack is difficult. Once past the headwall the climbing eases. Bring as many #4 Camalots as you think you might need for this pitch, as there are no other opportunities for other gear. Belay in a chimney. There a lousy rusted __ bolt at the belay. Either climb higher and place some gear, or just wedge yourself in the chimney good and hope your follower doesn't weigh much if they need to weight the rope.

Pitch 7 (160' 5.9) Face climb next to the crack above the belay, Then up a short chimney and exit the chimney via a small roof. Belay on a big ledge.

Pitch 8 (170' 5.10+/5.11-) Move left to the arête and climb up the crack on the arête to its' end. Move left to a crack on the mossy slab. This crack is difficult to climb as it's overgrown with grass and the slab is overgrown with moss and lichen, which make for very poor friction. Work up the crack to some old crappy bolts and back to the arête. The last bolt is on ledge, perhaps run it out to the anchor straight up, or traverse the ledge to the right and up a moss and grass filled crack (see any patterns here?) to Mirror wall ledge.

Escaping the Canyon: The climb might seem over, but the adventure is not. The guidebook mentions to continue up via easy 5th class with an occasional section up to 5.8. Leaving the ledge seemed like no easy proposition as the best options we found were 8_ cracks that appeared to be more like 5.10 with crumbly rock. We opted not for this option since our largest piece was a #4 Camalot and a ground fall would be guaranteed (Note: this would probably be a very bad place to get hurt). If you make it up, follow weakness up the rest of the wall (you're probably only half way at mirror wall ledge) to a rock island. Find a rappel or downclimb and exit a fin of rock (according to the guidebook).

Our Exit went more like this: Traverse right along the ledge, roping up is highly recommended; down climb some easy bits into the corner system. An anchor is visible once you get close. The anchor consists of two fixed nuts and some webbing wrapped around a horn. Rappel a rope-stretching 200' into the gully. Either climb around the rock fin on loose rock, or climb up the gully for a pitch of about 5.9 passing several steps and under a large table like chockstone (think of Aaron Ralston while you do this) beneath an enormous chockstone wedged 20' above you. Next order of business is getting past the Chillumstone. We climbed under the line of the rappel. Climb up thin cracks over small bulges (5.10) to a small roof. Place lots of gear and traverse about 15' left into a quartz groove. Make 5.9 moves into the groove, then the climbing gets easier, and after about 15' more, you can finally get some pro. Easy (runout) climbing up corners gets you to the rappel anchors. It might be possible to start up Ground Control to Major Tom and traverse to the anchors above the Chillumstone. And now battle your way back up the gully to the car keeping close to the large wall on the climber right when the gully splits.


2 60m ropes, double set of stoppers, double set of cams to #3 camalot, then however many #4 camalots you feel you'll need for the crux pitch. Additional wide gear many be required to continue above mirror wall ledge.


Jason Nelson
Jason Nelson   SLC, UT
After looking at the route this weekend from the North Rim, I figured out how to finish the route to the rim. At the top of the climb, move left along the Mirror Wall Ledge. Pick one of the 3 very wide cracks that all end in the same chimney. Climb one of these, then a couple more pitches up the buttress. After that, it looks as though there's lots of options, all of which include loose rock and bushes. May 24, 2004
Here's the beta for above mirror wall ledge - traverse left around the corner to 2 wide crack options. the rightone, fists/ow,curves to the right then bends back leftto join the left crack. this pitch looks pretty good but Idon't know if it's worth dragging a bunch of wide gearup there for it.the left crack starts off a couple of stacked blocks to a short ow section-5.10 ,#5 camalotthen turns into a deep chim. for a full 60m.- 5.9ishthis puts you at the top of the buttress. from here useyour honed black canyon route finding skills and headup negotiating numerous small headwalls,slabs etc...why rap off mirror wall ledge, loose a bunch of altitude,and grovel up chillumstone gully when you can just keep climbing? sure, the climbing isn't that good butit just extends the adventure - and if your doing the mirror wall or black shadow, adventure is what yourlooking for !! cheers Aug 18, 2004
Grand Junction, Co
Airbiscuit   Grand Junction, Co
Just a few suggestions,

I thought this one was GREAT! Way fun climbing and totally adventurous. I dissagree with the finish on P3 as I recall if you go climbers left you risk a pretty big swinger into the corner and it's got some sharpness to it! I climbed over there to the "sucker ledge" but downclimbed gripped out of my gourd not willing to risk the grungy slab above. There's finger size gear in the peg crack to the right, that's the way Teal and Miller went. I found all the pitches pretty fun! All clocking in around 5.10a save for #3 and the wideness at the top; and man that 25' is hard!. For the last pitch DO NOT go up the arete; instead piece together an improbable and well protected (thin gear) face directly above the belay (5.10c/d - excellent) Bolts are pretty bad but you can always back them up and for the most part. the only really bad stance is at the base of the 5.11 offwidth and you might want to save a #4 camalot for the belay when you get there.

remember this one is pretty long and when you finish you are only halfway up. We made the call not wanting to get lost in the maze above. Walk to far end of the morror wall (skiers left) looking for a funky anchor (thread and some nuts?) and rap almost all the way back down to the river and slog you ass out! We did the Chilum stone pitch in the dark and it was not really all that fun! Kinda mossy as I recall. But all in all this is one of the best I have done in the canyon. A must do for the adventurer looking for a obscure classic! Mar 23, 2006
Holy Fertilizer! That funky rap anchor of slings and fixed nuts sounds like the nasty anchor I established in the early eighties. Yikes! Chuck Grossman and I were climbing Mirror Wall for the Montrose and Grand Jct. TV cameras. It was a promotional stunt for the "It's A Gas" (Great American Summer campaign). The area wanted to promote the local tourist trade. About a pitch from the top of the real climbing we noticed the crowd on the rim bowling over each other and all the camera gear in an effort to get away fast. Ten minutes later and we were engulfed in a Black Canyon "Squall" replete with thunder and lightning! Instead of continuing up higher we booked down fast back towards the chillum stone gully. Somehow we survived the unroped speed descent across those wet, loose and mossy slabs. Being cliffed out when the brunt of the storm hit I pieced together what I could for an improvised rap. If memory serves the "anchor" consisted of a stopper that I bashed into place with a big hex and a sling over a "gardened" horn with the knot jammed in the crack as tight as possible. It looked shaky at best but at least it was equalized and I offered to rap first.

It was never intended as a regular "station" rather an emergency bail out only. It kind of makes me sick that it is seeing repeat use. At least it sounds as if it has been beefed up with a second fixed nut and, hopefully, good webbing. Climbing out the Chillum in the rain and slopping and slogging to the rim was it's own adventure. But what really frosted my grits was when we topped out there was NO-one around. They had all gone back to Montrose to edit film. To their credit they did call the ranger station to see if we had made it or had gotten fried. Now that would have been newsworthy.
My humble suggestion... if time and weather permit, go for the direct top out. PEACE philo Apr 12, 2006
Armin climber
Westminster, CO
Armin climber   Westminster, CO
Remember to bring your shop vac and air compressor for the last pitch! My partner did a lot of nut tool gardening on this pitch. Compliments to the NPS, they placed a fixed line from the Chilumstone Rappel. Nothing like have your foothold sublimate away as you pull the crux move on a pitch. A fun but long linkup when done w/ Blackjack. Jun 6, 2007
Bryan Gilmore
Bryan Gilmore   FLG, AZ
Great adventure day. We started just around the arete from start show in photo. Dirty, but good .10 corner to .11b fists to top of pillar. Then short 5.9 pitch gets you to where description mentions old tat. Then on normal route from there. All bolts show in Black Cyn. Guide topo are there, not as crossed off on appended topo on this site. They are old, rusty, and skinny! We went to the top, if doing this. Go up and left on Mirror Ledge as described on this site, take left OW to deep chimney for about 200' to top of pillar, really cool pitch. Then up and right to 5.10 move just above blue Camalot then rambling, low 5th until you have too much drag. Then a ridge pitch to climbing behind small tower to notch. Up wall across notch on cool cracks to ledge. Now, wander up easier terrain with simul-climbing staying on lower ledge, unrope and scramble across mesa to gully and down climb, cross notch and climb 5.6ish cracks to another mesa... now cross this and down climb again (old rap station on stout tree here) and bushwhack across and up to road. Expect a long day and bring plenty of water. Sees lots of sun and starts in a poison ivy patch. Jun 2, 2012
Vic Zeilman  
A few notes... the protection bolts on the pitch below Mirror Wall Ledge have been replaced. All of the other anchor bolts can be backed up with a bomber piece to supplement. The 5.10+, improbable-looking, thin crack/face variation on the amended topo is awesome and leads directly up to the bolts. The chimney/chasm that leaves from the left side of Mirror Wall Ledge is wild! Seemed like the ideal big cam rack would be two #4s and two #5s (C4s) - there's no good #4 (C4) placement in the OW. You could get by with one #5 (C4), but you would need to bump it for about 60' before you get another piece in. Rad climb! May 20, 2013
Brandon Gottung
currently Las Cruces, NM
Brandon Gottung   currently Las Cruces, NM
Excellent! I found every pitch to offer wonderful climbing up (licheny) spectacular stone. The cruxes were memorable and well-protected, with P2 and P8 being the most demanding. Once past the first pitch, the position is among the best in the canyon with amazing views of North Chasm View Wall and the raging river. We continued past Mirror Ledge following the crunchy, runout OW to chimney, then followed the ridge to the summit of the final tower. From here, a 30 m rap into the notch followed by a 60 m rappel into the gully above the Chillumstone.

A #1 BigBro would work well to backup the #5 on the offwidth on pitch 6, and a #3 BigBro could help protect the offwidth of pitch 9. As for big cams, I recommend a single #4 and double #5s. RPs were necessary to protect pitch 8, which I thought was the crux of the route.

Highly recommended adventure route! Sep 20, 2017