Type: Trad, 1000 ft (303 m), 10 pitches
FA: Lynn Hill, John Long, Richard Harrison - 1981
Page Views: 2,920 total · 20/month
Shared By: Josh Janes on Jun 13, 2012
Admins: Luke EF, Larry DeAngelo, Justin Johnsen, Aaron Mc

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Warning Access Issue: Red Rock RAIN AND WET ROCK: The sandstone is fragile and is very easily damaged when wet. DetailsDrop down

Description Suggest change

This is a long, loose, runout route that climbs a white flake system - a feature that is obvious for most of the approach - up the left margin of the Dark Shadows Wall. Begin at the left edge of the wall, just right of a huge cave-like alcove.

P1: Climb a long right-facing corner before stepping left and up into the monster chimney above. Move up this, at first easily, then with more difficulty. There is protection available in the back, but the feature forces you to climb away from it, so difficulty/tedium may be inversely proportionate to your boldness. Nevertheless, a shaky #6 Camalot provides protection on the way to bomber gear at the very top of the chimney. Pull out of the chimney to a stance, then lieback a flake/arête feature passing good nut placements. Just below a stretch of white rock, traverse left on fragile holds into a right-facing corner. Climb easily up this and set up a belay where convenient. 5.10c, 150'.

P2: A short pitch (depending on where you stopped on P1) leads up a wide crack to a comfortable belay on a white ledge at a lone bolt and wire placement. 5.8.

P3: Face climb up the varnished wall right of the corner, eventually moving back into the corner and following this for a very long pitch until the corner/crack dwindles. Belay on gear. 5.8.

P4: Face climb straight up fragile holds and poor gear until arriving once again at a large corner system. Belay on gear. 5.8 R.

P5-10: Follow the corner system as it gradually turns into a right-trending ramp, then continue up the face and cracks above until the angle of the wall lessens, eventually turning into a scramble to the summit of the Mescalito. 5.8 R.

This route has a notorious reputation thanks to a huge fall that a young Lynn Hill took on the first pitch after breaking a hold (various accounts described the whipper, which was arrested by a small hex in grainy rock, as anywhere between 40 and 60 feet). I found the first pitch to be reasonably well-protected (from the point where Lynn fell, she must have skipped several bombproof wire placements – easy to do while liebacking, although perhaps the smallest straight-sided nuts of day would not have been viable). Nevertheless, the seriousness of this route is realized on the higher pitches where, between the loose corner systems and cracks, stretches of face climbing up portable holds and scarce (solid) pro await. Apparently sometime after the FA the route was retrobolted (see the quote below), but these bolts must have since been chopped as we only saw one (at the P2 belay). While this route is a bold and adventurous first ascent, it is far from classic by any other measuring stick. However, the style in which it was completed is impressive when compared to either the heavy-handed bolting or the bolt-free big wall headpoints that are common in Red Rocks today. John Long mentions the FA of Negro Blanco in this little anecdote from SuperTopo:

“I first visited Red Rocks as a senior in high school – drawn there by the original pioneer, Joe Herbst, who was something of a mentor to Richard Harrison and me way back then (The Bronze Age). There was no loop road – just an incomprehensible matrix of old dirt wagon roads that got you within a few miles of Velvet Canyon, et al. The dirt roads were treacherous and pot-holed and washed out and we could barely use them in Joe's tired old VW bus. It took big time to even gain the cliffs, and since bolts were pretty much verboten, we were on pins and poor nuts (all nuts were poor back then). Scared the shit out of us climbing there back then.

“With that gear and being so remote, those cliffs were really intimidating. I didn't go back till '78. There was a loop road then, and a bunch of new routes. Guys were bolting up stuff but the place still was intimidating. No sport routes yet because the natural lines were still there to do, and plenty of them. We free climbed Levitation, and did a few other longish trad routes. One, I think it was Negro Blanco, was really necky, about ten pitches long and no bolts. Lynn Hill took a bona fide 50 footer leading the second pitch.

“I went back ten years later and the route had about fifty bolts on it ("modernized" they called it). Now there is a plan to build homes on the flanks of this great wilderness, and it really has to stop.

“Climbing in the Red Rocks used to be like venturing to the Middle of Nowhere – really radical and exciting if not terrifying. We've got to try and preserve a little of that for later generations, so I'm all for supporting this drive to ban development, by any means. Else it will all be gone. Believe it.”

Protection Suggest change

SR plus a #6 Camalot.

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