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Black Dagger 

YDS: 5.8 French: 5b Ewbanks: 16 UIAA: VI- ZA: 15 British: HVS 4c PG13

Type:  Trad, 6 pitches, 800', Grade III
Original:  YDS: 5.7+ French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b PG13 [details]
FA: Joe Herbst, Rich Wheeler, 1977
Page Views: 20,535
Submitted By: George Bell on Apr 23, 2001

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someone leading out under the p2 roof on black dag...

RAIN AND WET ROCK The sandstone in Red Rocks is fragile and is very easily damaged when it is wet. MORE INFO >>>


This route is on the far left side of the Brownstone Wall and the approach takes about 2 hours. The route is in the sun most of the day so can be quite warm, although the 3rd and 4th pitch are in a recessed chimney and are shady except in the early morning.

We had some difficulty locating the start of this route. If you head up slabs which lead to the center of the Brownstone Wall, you will have to traverse left quite a ways to get to the route, even going down a bit. You are nearly back to the creek bed when you reach the base. The white overhang in Swain's topo on pitch 1 was not obvious to us. The best way to find the route is to locate the the overhang on the second pitch and the crack system above it.

P1: Climb a crack us through some soft rock to a block that is below a white roof (5.6, 120'). P2: Traverse left, then up to a crack at the far left side of the roof. Sock in some good gear (on long slings), then head up and back right on varnished plates to the crack which forms the right side of the roof (now below you). Continue up this crack to a belay ledge (5.7+, 140'). Swain calls this pitch PG but the runouts did did not seem bad to me. There is a runout above the roof but it is not as bad as that on the next pitch.

P3: Here is where you look up and say "Oh yeah, Swain did say to bring 'large gear' for this pitch ...". Above you is a fantastic black corner, but the back necks down into a fairly fat crack. I don't exactly recall the width of the crack, I just recall we didn't have anything big enough to fit in it (I'd guess it's 5-6 inches). You need a #5 Camalot or #3 Big Bro, and the crack might be too flared to fit the Big Bro (I don't think a #4 Camalot fits either). Stem and face climb up the corner, with or without pro, until you reach the base of a chimney (5.7, 130'). If you don't have any 5-6 inch gear, you will have to run it out at least 20', this is the S section. If you take big gear you may be able to walk it up and remove the S rating, please add comments below on this.

P4: Wander up into the darkness of a deep slot, exit left through a wild hole onto a huge ledge which faces south and (if it is late enough) into full sunshine (5.2, 100'). Two more pitches go more or less straight up from here, on softer rock. Great views of the Rainbow Wall to your south.

Descent: Head south into the Gunsight Gully and scramble back down to the start of the route. Pretty quick and easy descent.


Standard rack to #3 Camalot with maybe a 5-6" piece (see description). Make sure you have some longer slings for the wandering pitches. Only one rope is needed.

Photos of Black Dagger Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Part of Rainbow Wall(left side of pic); the higher...
Part of Rainbow Wall(left side of pic); the higher...
Rock Climbing Photo: The Brownstone Wall from the approach
BETA PHOTO: The Brownstone Wall from the approach
Rock Climbing Photo: The easy but fun pitch 4.  Judy Karpeichik, RIP 20...
The easy but fun pitch 4. Judy Karpeichik, RIP 20...
Rock Climbing Photo: Enjoying the view from the top
Enjoying the view from the top
Rock Climbing Photo: I believe this is Black Dagger.
I believe this is Black Dagger.
Rock Climbing Photo: Brett on Black Dagger. 11/24/15.
Brett on Black Dagger. 11/24/15.
Rock Climbing Photo: The beautiful corner
The beautiful corner
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking up at Black Dagger
BETA PHOTO: Looking up at Black Dagger
Rock Climbing Photo: p2
Rock Climbing Photo: Tim high on Black Dagger
Tim high on Black Dagger
Rock Climbing Photo: P3
Rock Climbing Photo: Looking down pitch 5 to the big ledge.  Judy Karpe...
Looking down pitch 5 to the big ledge. Judy Karpe...
Rock Climbing Photo: Brett completes the crux sequence of Black Dagger ...
Brett completes the crux sequence of Black Dagger ...
Rock Climbing Photo: The awesome pitch three. Bring your wide gear for ...
The awesome pitch three. Bring your wide gear for ...
Rock Climbing Photo: John cruisin' on the 6th pitch, the last bit of te...
John cruisin' on the 6th pitch, the last bit of te...
Rock Climbing Photo: Jonny on the exciting starting traverse of pitch 2...
Jonny on the exciting starting traverse of pitch 2...

Comments on Black Dagger Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Dec 14, 2016
By John Peterson
Mar 8, 2004

I don't think the runout on the 3rd pitch was all that bad - the climbing is fairly secure. But then I wasn't leading that one!

We did make one highly critical error: we didn't look at the condition of the descent gully before we started and wound up coming down lots of snow in rock shoes. The descent gets a lot hairier when covered in snow.
By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
Apr 5, 2004

My partner backed off the 3rd pitch after seeing no gear placements above, so I can attest that some find it intimidating. I'm pretty sure we had a #4 Camalot but it didn't fit anywhere on this pitch (the crack is even larger), but you can get smaller stuff in subsidiary cracks, particularly at the beginning of the pitch. I led it and you do have to run it out but John is right it felt pretty secure. The pitch gets easier but more runout as you proceed.
By Matt Faust
Mar 27, 2005
rating: 5.7+ 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

We had a #4 and #4.5 camalot, and I was able to protect the third pitch decently. Although, the widest section was runout enough to make me really stop and think about what I was doing. The views up there are amazing.
By Anthony Anagnostou
From: nyc
Mar 7, 2006

the swain guide said this route got sun all day in the spring and summer. as of 3/6/06, it went out of the sun around 11:30 or 12:00. the descent was very wet, so bring a rope you dont need the next day in early season, etc.

the ramp/chimney is not 4th class, per swain guide. i remember thinking it was more like 5.4 R, as if you fell out of the exit you'd fall a ways and then tumble on the ramp. however, i didnt look too hard for pro so maybe it sews up.

there are two bolts, slings, and rings midway up the second pitch if you decide to bail. didnt see any bail gear above that, although there was a new looking 7mm cord wrapped around the huge block on the ledge left of the p2 belay.

the rock quality of the roof you traverse left of (before pulling around and going back right) on p2 is not my favorite. i thought this section here was the spiciest part of the route, not the beautiful varnished dihedral up a couple pitches.

my favorite 5.7 in the park. this or olive oil, anyways.
By Ian Wolfe
From: Fayetteville, NC
Apr 8, 2006
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13

The third pitch is seriously one of the most amazing pitches I have done at Red Rock. A beautiful slick, varnished right facing corner soars above you in a very vertical fashion! I didn't think the pitch was too run out, maybe a section where I was 20-25 feet above my last piece. Slightly worrying because the rock is so slippery, but the climbing was good and I hardly noticed it.

We tried to pull the crack on the right side of the roof for pitch 2 directly. I couldn't manage it with my pack on, but it felt like it would go if I was packless at about low 10s. Instead we placed a piece in this crack and traversed right a short distance, moving up a thin face back to the crack. I'd say it goes at about 5.9ish, and you definitely avoid any rope drag problems with wandering way out left.

The descent is straightforward and Gunsight Notch is a wonderful little area to explore. The only thing that sucked was hacking our way through the scrub oak trying to get back to the Rainbow Wall trail.

One of Red Rock's lesser-known classic climbs!
By Sandro
From: Calgary, AB
Dec 4, 2006
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13

I thought this was a classic route for two reasons: first because the third pitch corner is such a prominent feature, visible from across the canyon, and second because it was put up in a traditional style without any bolts.

Personally, I thought the runout section was on the second pitch right off the belay when you have to make delicate moves on marginal gear. I took a standard rack with double 1 and 2 BD's, plus a 4. There was never any time on the corner pitch where I had to run out my gear more than 15 feet, I do think though that the 3rd pitch is pretty stout at 5.8 compared to other Red Rock 5.8's like Frogland.

We approached via the pine trail that continues up towards gunsight notch from the Rainbow approach slab. This involved a few minutes of bushwacking, but was fast and straightforward.
By Tavis Ricksecker
Jan 1, 2007
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13

I thought the traverse on the second pitch was the only dangerous part. The third pitch my biggest piece went in as high as I could get it (3.5 camalot) and it was about 15 feet to the next piece, but the climbing wasn't too bad.
By John Wilder
From: Las Vegas, NV
Mar 26, 2007
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13

A really amazing climb- the more i think about it, the more i'm convinced that its the best 5.8 in the park.....spectacular everything- climbing, rock, and position, with a breathtaking summit!

You dont really need anything bigger than a #4 for the 3rd pitch- anyplace you could put something that big, the climb is either very easy until the end of it, or there is smaller pro readily available. I think my max run-out on the pitch was about 15' or so, and I dont think you could have put a big cam in that slot- looked too flaring.

We took a mostly single rack up the route...i think we had doubles in yellow and red aliens but never used them. That said, I'd double up on purple/green camalot sizes if anything.

Oh, that 2nd pitch is spooky- the 5.7 off left is just weird enough to keep you on your toes, and the .10a version above looks friable with little pro.

Finally, ignore the rap station that leads into the gunsight proper- i dont even know why its there. The second rap station, however, is useful if you dont want to tunnel onto loose looking blocks.
By Dirty Gri Gri, or is it GiGi?
From: Vegas
Sep 13, 2007

Damn!! My favorite ride for the grade so far in Red Rock land. The amazing views of Rainbow Wall from Brownstone Wall, and the fun Gunsight Notch descent tickled me even more! You won't be disappointed!

Much thanks to Herbst, and Wheeler for going first!
By Nic Gladd
From: Washington, DC
Sep 17, 2007

Great route!

1) the chimney/tunnel section can be exited up and right with quality 5.9 liebacking on perfect varnish, instead of the 5.2 left exit. Recommended for extra fun.

2) pitches 3 and 4 can be linked with a 60m, although communication is difficult.
By Doug Hemken
From: Madison, WI
Mar 26, 2008
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13

Nice. The word for pitch 2 is "finesse." In hindsight, it has better pro and better holds than I would have guessed from below - hats off to Herbst and Wheeler. Pitch 3, the stemming pitch, was more sustained than I was expecting, which I also enjoyed.

The only fly in the ointment was that I wasn't expecting those convenience belay-bolts. I was frankly a bit disappointed to see them on such a grand old route (kind of like the bolts on Ginger Cracks). What's more, the first pair of bolts puts you too high under the roof, and makes your first piece of gear on p2 much more likely to pop. Better/safer/less rope drag to stop lower and build your own anchor. The second pair of bolts comes much too soon after the traverse, and your partners will thank you for not stopping there. You should carry on to the ledge above the bottleneck and below the stemming.

Coming down the Gunsight could be tricky if the first time you "see" it is in the dark. But in daylight, its a hoot. There is one rappel station most of the way down that can be bypassed by finding a little tunnel down through the boulders ... as long as its not too wet.
By sqwirll
From: Las Vegas
Apr 6, 2009
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13

Brought a #6 Camalot C4 for the 3rd pitch. Took the bite off of the wide section.

Also, we skipped the slabs and hiked up the trail along the base of the Rainbow Wall. You only have to traverse in around 50 yds off of this trail to get to the base. It took us 1hr15m from Oak Creek to the base at a comfortable pace.

It should also be noted that there is several hundred feet of class 4 above the last pitch.
By Sherri Lewis
From: Sequim, WA
Mar 30, 2011

This climb is quite good. The moves and rock quality on P3 are worth 5 stars!

On P2, I used a bomber #4 cam placement beside where the roof connects to the wall which totally mitigated the freak factor of pulling onto that roof from the main wall on the left with thin pro. When you get to that position, the loose white flake wedged in there looks like your only option for pro, but look just slightly above and in back of it for the solid crack.

I was glad I brought big gear(#3.5, #4, and a #5), though I can see where you could get by with less ammunition if you know what to expect.
By Nick Hamill
Jul 6, 2011

Took the right side variation, at the beginning of the 2nd pitch. Found one good placement just a few feet off of the belay (if i remember correctly) and then just had to commit until over the bulge. Thankfully no rock broke off for me or my partner.
By Seth Derr
From: harrisburg, pa
Mar 19, 2012

What an adventure. Long approach, no one else in the canyon, really felt alone on this one and loved every minute of it. Well... almost every minute. The wind up high provoked a very serious conversation between me and rock climbing, but it all worked out in the end. Highly recommend this for the total experience. Amazing.
By Stan Pitcher
From: SLC, UT
Apr 10, 2013

Great route! Single set with 3, 3.5 & 4 camalot was more than sufficient - there are lots of small placements. Last two pitches off ledge are full 60's!
By Tony Lopez
From: NJ
May 19, 2015

We hiked up through the slabs and out through the gully. I wish i had snips for the vegetated descent and gully trail.
Belayed well below the bolts at the roof making the first pitch about 100' and pitch 2 almost 200'. Should have used double rope technique. Had considerable rope drag even with long slings for the roof and extending every placement.
Linked the beautiful corner and the chimney making another full length pitch. Had a 4 and felt secure through the runout.
Two more easy rope stretchers got us on top. The summit and descent were awesome!
One of my favorite climbs of the trip.
By Chase D
Feb 22, 2016
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c PG13

Excellent route. In my opinion, a #4 and #5 cams are mandatory. We placed them on several pitches and would have easily used a #6 on pitch 3. Speaking of P3, we thought it was technical and sustained for the grade. Definitely felt harder than other RR 5.8s.

There was water running down the Gunsight Notch and it was nearly impossible to keep the rope dry during the rappel. Even if you tunnel under the blocks and avoid the rappel, you and your gear will most likely get wet this time of year.
By Justin Streit
Nov 26, 2016

Wide gear definitely not mandatory. Had a #4 that we placed a couple times, but if you're solid at 5.8, you can easily cruise past the wide pod without needing anything bigger.
By Max Shaffer
Nov 30, 2016

There is about 10 feet of 5.9 climbing on the 3rd pitch, which I wasn't expecting. The dihedral pinches down and the rock becomes quite slick. I used some face holds to avoid the corner, but I still thought the climbing was Red Rocks 5.9.
The Gunsight Gully is quite easy to descend except for one section that cliffs out. There is a sling on a small tree, but if you find yourself there without a rope, you can down-climb the face at 5.6 for about 20 feet.
By Andrea Zou
From: Seattle, Washington
Dec 14, 2016

did this yesterday and it's a rly quality climb!
some notes:
1) there are bolt anchors for the first pitch, and in the middle of the second pitch if you need to rappel. didn't see any other easy to bail points.
2) chimney pitch was mostly 4th class. the squeeze through the tunnel/opening was fun! but if you aren't super experienced with chimneys it might feel a little more than fourth class--just go for it :)
3) biggest we brought was a #4. bigger gear would be nice but the wide section is pretty secure stemming with many hand holds and even a .4 in the middle. save #1-#3 for most of the gear belays. i did not and had some less than ideal anchors
4) as stated above there's a section of gunsight where it "cliffs out" and here's a sling on a tree. before you commit to a rappel, we found a tunnel below the tree--it's narrow but saved us from having to rap
5) books says easy 3rd to the top? we did not find this and had to climb another pitch through trees. anyone have different beta of reaching the top?

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