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Shadow Rock
Routes Sorted
L to R R to L Alpha
1st Offense T,S,TR 
Battle of the Bulge S,TR 
Desperado S 
Diamond S 
Eat Mo' Possum T 
Fat Man S,TR 
Fields of Fire S 
I Love a Mystery TR 
Inner Sanctum  T 
Lycra S 
Middle Man S 
Powerplay T,TR 
Pressure Drop S 
Shadow S,TR 
Shadow Traverse S 
Swallow T,S,TR 
Thin Man S 
Three To Get Ready S 


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

Type:  Sport, TR, 1 pitch, 80'
Original:  YDS: 5.7 French: 5a Ewbanks: 15 UIAA: V+ ZA: 13 British: MVS 4b R [details]
FA: Probably Ed Sampson
Page Views: 6,949
Submitted By: Chris Nosti on Jan 22, 2004

You & This Route  |  Other Opinions (47)
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Toproping shadow


This route has a mixture of old bolting ethics and those from Owen's River Gorge. This means the first bolt is about 20 ft off the deck but the ones following are almost on top of eachother. That said, it is still a classic, good enough to be placed on Hans Flourine's top six routes below 5.12! It starts on the left side of the block in the middle of the wall and goes up until you are just below and left of the first bolt. Traverse right, clip the bolt and then follow the bolt line up to the anchors. Great for those days when cracked wall is packed and you need some shade.


Five bolts and a two eye-bolt anchor at the top make this a straight-forward lead for those just getting into sport climbing. (It usually is everyone's first lead anyway)

Photos of Shadow Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: A corrected picture of the routes at the top of th...
BETA PHOTO: A corrected picture of the routes at the top of th...
Rock Climbing Photo: Cheri Ermshar climbing on Shadow. Photo by Floyd H...
Cheri Ermshar climbing on Shadow. Photo by Floyd H...
Rock Climbing Photo: Cheri Ermshar cleaning Shadow. Photo by Floyd Haye...
Cheri Ermshar cleaning Shadow. Photo by Floyd Haye...
Rock Climbing Photo: Leading Shadow
Leading Shadow
Rock Climbing Photo: Sam Williams TRing Shadow
Sam Williams TRing Shadow
Rock Climbing Photo: Now, where is that first bolt?
Now, where is that first bolt?

Comments on Shadow Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated May 27, 2017
By Kristin McNamara
From: SLO, CA
Jan 27, 2004

Kudos to those of you who make this your first lead. I'm STILL too much of a wuss to lead this thing. That bolt is HIGH!
By John Knight
Jan 29, 2004

Per a discussion w/Rusty Garing, he believes the first ascent was Rob Russell. BTW, this climb is more like 5.8.
By Jad Josey
Feb 2, 2004
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

What a great climb! Yes, that first bolt is way up there, but getting to it is the easiest part of this climb. Start to the left of the first bolt, climb a very foot-work-oriented section with small handholds, then head up and right along a series of ramp-like edges to the first bolt. The climbing gets better and more interesting from here on out; to be honest, I don't think I've ever climbed Shadow the same way twice. A wealth of options exist, although the general line would be quite obvious even without the bolts. This is a brilliant climb that is, just as the guidebook says, nearly everyone's first lead.
By Jon Hanlon
From: SLO
Feb 11, 2004
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

One of the greatest around, but neither 5.7 nor everyone's first lead. Thank god it wasn't my first lead. More like 5.8 with some tricky moves between bolts 2 and 3. Thought about continuing on with pitch 2....climbed about 20 feet to the next set of anchors..looked wet, mossy, loose and covered with lichen above.Quit while you're ahead!!

Climbed the "second pitch" of Shadow the other day. It was actually very enjoyable. Be ready for a significant runout on the slabs above (same deal as Fields of Fire). Recommended!
By Chad Hinkle
Mar 9, 2004
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b

If you are following, or TRing (or are more daring than I) Shadow a fun variation exists if you go straight up for the first bolt, ignoring the easier way to the left. Its a bit harder about 5.9
By Derek J Seymour
Jun 21, 2004
rating: 5.8- 5b 16 VI- 14 VS 4c

Is the climber in the photo clipped in to a piton, or did he make the mistake of clipping the first bolt of Pressure Drop (often done by people who read the Slater book alone without getting route info from a local) ? Legend has it this climb was originally aided, check out what looks like piton scars on the easy section before the first bolt. Also I have to disagree with the description of the first moves being on small holds. For the Shadow Wall they are buckets!
By Jon Hanlon
From: SLO
Jun 22, 2004
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

Derek, I'm the climber in the photo. I placed a small Hugh Banner cam in a small vertical seam about 15 feet off the ground. It won't protect you all the way to the first bolt, but it's better than nothing.

By Jeshua Borges
Dec 28, 2004
rating: 5.8- 5b 16 VI- 14 VS 4c R

Wow, talk about a first lead. This was my first lead and I'd have to say that I wished it wasnt. Not having much experience with a friction slabs the climb to that first bolt left me pretty shook up.

For somone looking for a first lead might i suggest Madison Squire Garden on Garden Wall. Its a much easier climb and the first bolt is much more accessable.
By Tom Myers
Mar 29, 2005
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

Climbed this route again recently and forgot what a foot and calf burner it is. The early guide books rated this climb 5.8 and I think it still applies. When did it get downrated?
By Robert Lester
Apr 3, 2005

I heard of someone falling below the first bolt and not getting hurt at all. You basically slide down the low angle slab. Maybe a few scrapes/bruises but nothing to worry about.
By Derek J Seymour
May 23, 2005
rating: 5.8- 5b 16 VI- 14 VS 4c

Here is a suggestion for those of you who don't feel challenged after hitting the chains.......Keep Going!You will see two (2) sets of old anchors above the ledge at the top of the pitch and another bolt above them. Clip each of these as you continue up and then run it out to the chains for Inner Sanctum. It REQUIRES a 60 m rope to double rope rap back down to the Shadow anchors, and then the ground. Obvioulsy the leader will need to belay the second up to the Inner Sanctum anchors so prepare gear accordingly .
By vincent lopez
Sep 11, 2005
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c

"First Lead" ??? who in their right mind sends a fledgling leader up this route ? true getting to the first bolt is relatively easy but climbing 20+ feet off the deck before protection is not my idea of how to break in a new leaders head . a fall would not be pretty and IMO very detrimental to a new leaders future outlook on the sport . do your new leader a favor and climb up and clip the first bolt or stick clip it for him.....
By M. Morley
From: Sacramento, CA
Sep 12, 2005

As mentioned in an earlier post by Jon Hanlon, there is a gear placement (small TCU) about 10-feet off the deck (see photo). It wouldn't keep you from decking if you blow the traverse over to the first bolt, but it can ease your mind a bit before making the first clip.
By Kristin McNamara
From: SLO, CA
Sep 16, 2005

I call BS. I know plenty of people (including myself) who unknowingly trundled up to Shadow wall intending on their first lead ever and being mightily surprised by what was awaiting. That's a sandbag if I've ever seen it.
By Marty Brenner
From: Durango, CO
Sep 16, 2006
rating: 5.7 5a 15 V+ 13 MVS 4b R

What's with the rating? This used to be regarded as the benchmark 5.7 (maybe 5.7+ on a high-gravity day). Maybe call it 5.7+R.

A leader should definitely consider this a RUNOUT climb. You can place a bomber nut/cam near the start, but you are definitely at groundout level before clipping the first bolt.

I highly recommend this climb! Most excellent. For added fun, set up a TR and play around with variations: stay left of bolts, climb straight over the bolts, climb Lycra, etc.
By Slater
Sep 22, 2006

To quote Royal Robbins about Shadow...

"That's no 5.7."
By Rich Graziano
From: Atascadero, CA
Jul 9, 2008

I think it's funny how controversial this route is. Sure, you have to keep your head together on the way to the first bolt, and I admit that there was one time I had an "oh sh*t!" moment while climbing the-directly-below-the-bolt variation (5.8ish).[see Note 1] Yet, as anyone familiar with YNP climbing knows, that same section (to the first bolt) in the meadows would just barely count as a run out, if at all. I don't know about everyone else's experience, but I'm convinced that the crux of the climb is actually between 2nd and 3rd bolts.[see Note 2]

As for this being a good first lead, I guess I have two things to say. First, I think it depends on how that's characterized. Shadow is everyone's first lead? Surely Tom isn't claiming that it is everyone's first lead! He's not making a descriptive claim. No, he's a normative claim: he's claiming that Shadow is a good/appropriate/reasonable route for a first lead.[see Note 3] Yet, as many of you have said, it's pretty clear that it shouldn't be so. I agree with that assessment: it wouldn't really be good/appropriate/reasonable for just any new leader to make it their first route "on the sharp end." But that doesn't imply it isn't good/appropriate/reasonable for it to be some people's first lead. That's arguably just as false as the claim that Shadow is everyone's first lead. This leads me to the second thing: it may be perfectly good/appropriate/reasonable for someone to do as their first lead. I know some climbers who have been bouldering and TRing for years, who can send V5s and .11s, etc., who wouldn't even break a sweat were they to decide to start leading and make this their first route. As with all things in climbing (really anything we do), it depends on a number of relevant factors: the person's skill level in other types of rock climbing (bouldering, TRing, etc.), how much risk that person is willing to assume, the quality of the belayer, etc. I wouldn't recommend it to most new leaders (the operative word being 'most'), but I also wouldn't turn someone away from it if I thought that there is sufficient reason to think that they are more than capable to handle it. I'm sure we all agree that it's up to the climbing party to make that decision.[see Note 4]

At the end of the day, it seems to me that there's a really easy solution to all this worry. And it involves neither the old if-you-don't-feel-up-to-it-don't-lead-it adage nor, what I'm tempted to say, pace Mike Morley, is a worthless gear placement ten feet OTD and to the left. It is this: have someone spot the leader from the ramp. Let's be honest. Not only is a belay worthless until a quality first piece is clipped, but a spotter on the ramp makes the first section not much more than a 12 foot or so boulder problem.[see Note 5]

Well, that's my two-cents (more like twenty-five since it's more like a tome). I might be full of crap, maybe not. Of course, the beauty of this is that it's wonderful that we locals have a chance to dialogue and debate this such things. Cheerio.

1 Question: is the direct start the variation, or is it the left start/traverse version the variation?
2 This, of course, raises the old question about what exactly constitutes the crux of a route? The most technically demanding section, or the most psychologically challenging section (assuming that the two are different)?
3 Note that the use of 'good', 'appropriate', 'reasonable' are obviously not being used in a moral sense; they're being used in a prudential sense (that is, in the sense that is concerned with the person's future self-interests, e.g., as in the claims saving money is good, it's appropriate to check your rope for signs of substantive damage, etc.).
4 Of course, I have other views about how the new leader should learn "the craft" that many wouldn't agree with (e.g., I think it's a mistake to think that a new leader should learn the craft on sport rather than trad routes), but I leave that for another discussion.
5 One final thing. I honestly can't see how the left start/traverse version to the 1st bolt is any harder than 5.6.
By Slater
Jul 17, 2009

Rich, well said.

To answer and clarify a few things -

"The early guide books rated this climb 5.8" Nope. Go look at one.

Gulyash's guide rated it 5.7
My '94/'95 and '97 guidebooks rated it 5.7
Tucker/Steele rated it 5.8 (they got their info from Gulyash, go figure)
and finally my '06 guide rated it 5.8

To quote Dwight Kroll from an essay he wrote for me in '95-
"...and not until we got to Yosemite did we realize that the Shadow was one of the harder 5.7s around." Ha ha, probably because it wasn't 5.7. But nobody back then was gonna be the first weenie to say... "Shadow is hard- it's more like 5.8!" They had their reps to consider.

Also, Shadow was a bolted aid climb. No pitons. Not a legend, it's a known fact. In a journal excerpt from Bob Garing written in '72 and given to me in '94-
"Two young men were on the rock setting BOLTS (my emphasis)...Shadow Rock, the name given to the route by Bob Russell."

Routes do change over time after a lot of traffic. 1970s were a long time ago.

So I don't think Shadow got downgraded, it was in the beginning 5.7. Certainly it is not the first route to adjust over time. Take Lycra... 5.10a? I doubt it. But that is what the FA party called it, Pete, everyone else back then, but now I'd say it is at least .10b or even .10c (esp. as an onsight)? As an author, it is difficult to get out of one mind frame and reset. Back when I was climbing in early '90s Shadow was always said to be 5.7, so you just go with it. It would have been out of step for me to challenge Dwight, Pete etc. and come in as the new guy and call it 5.8. Plus, with all those earlier guys calling it 5.7... you certainly doubted your own evaluation of it. There were no climbing forums, and nobody was gonna say it was 5.8. And they didn't, until much later.

Also, as far as the "everyone's first lead" comment... poorly written. Everyone's first lead at Shadow Wall. It was mine. And if you can keep it together for 12' then once you hit the traverse ledges it's like 5.2. The bolt is deceptively high, but don't forget there is a ledge to start off of that is 5' off the ground, and it is only about 12' to the foot ledges. Anyway... it's 95% mental, and let's face it, many climbers today don't get a lot of practice on routes like that (enter sport climbing). Most of Bishop is like that if you're leading the routes. They are mentally challenging. So is Shadow. Keep in mind that not everyone starts off leading 5.4, or 5.6. My nephew's first lead was 5.9. He's a very strong guy. We all start in different places. That's cool.

But... for sake of argument, what else on Shadow would you rather lead? Desperado maybe (now), but that's it. And most climbers (all?) sent Desperado back then straight up (5.9 - sandbag!), not way right and then stretch over to barely clip the 2nd bolt. In fact, the Gulyash guide has no 5.7 variation (I added that in '97 guidebook), and it even shows you stepping back left after clipping the first bolt (Gulyash). Back then Shadow had more bolts than anything else on that wall and they were close together. And it was the easiest route there rating wise, with the exception of Swallow and Easy St. But both those routes had no bolts and you had to know what you were doing with small nuts to get protection. So actually, it was a lot of people's first lead around town. Like I said, not everyone starts with the easiest route they can find. They do what they can do. Shadow has grown into a sort of mini-Inner Sanctum, but believe me, it wasn't a big deal back then. But hey, to each their own. I'm not faulting anyone for not wanting to lead it, or start on it.

Also, anyone with eyes knows that you don't clip the first bolt on Pressure Drop and then move over to Shadow. You'd have to down climb and do a huge traverse, rope drag, etc. I was not computer savy in '97 and didn't draw my topos for that guide and it is incorrect. But come on...

Also, keep in mind, the original Gulyash guidebooks ('82 & '86) did not have any text after route names and pro list. It read -
"Shadow 5.7 Nuts not necessary" That was it. There were no route descriptions AT ALL.
Climbers today are spoiled with a wealth of info.

Also, straight up is the variation. Left start (original) is easier.

Times have changed at Bishop. Perceptions change. The climbing is what it is, but not everyone sees it the same way. And what's wrong with that?

I hope this helps add to your appreciation of Shadow. It's a good one.
By Floyd Hayes
Mar 22, 2010
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c R

After placing a tiny cam in the thin slot perhaps 10 feet off the deck I felt pretty secure for the next few moves before reaching some jugs. Traversing on the ledge to the first bolt was real easy, requiring minimal balance--no need to freak out.

Pitch 2 was fun, but after the 3rd bolt I reached the low point in the line of vegetation and was unable to see the anchors in the spot indicated in Slater’s guide, so I had to choose to go left or right on bare rock to avoid the vegetation. Fortunately I chose to go left (I don't think there is an anchor on the right side), running it out about 50' before encountering a 4th bolt just before the anchor, which is much higher and left of where it is illustrated in Slater’s guide, slightly higher and right of the anchor shown for Inner Sanctum and Pressure Drop.
By Lana dude
Sep 3, 2013
rating: 5.8- 5b 16 VI- 14 VS 4c R

The moves up to 1st bolt are only slightly easier than rest of route. Decking wouldn't be pretty on a hard landing zone. You decide if risk is worth the tick. Another option is climb Desperado and while descending clip 1st bolt of Shadow. This allows climber to bypass R and still lead most of route.
By FrankPS
From: Atascadero, CA
Jan 26, 2014
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c R

About five or six years ago, my partner fell before clipping the first bolt from about 15-18 feet up. Didn't have a cam in the slot before the bolt. Hit the ledge on the way down and broke his ankle. Although he had successfully led Shadow before, he peeled off this time.

I've also seen a guy slide down on lead, keep his footing when hitting the ledge and jump to the ground, sticking the landing! It was scary, but nicely done. No injury.

I like to pre-clip the first bolt on a lower from Desperado, removing the groundfall potential.
By Wes Mantooth
From: San Luis Obispo, CA
Jul 7, 2014
rating: 5.8+ 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c R

I got mega pumped on this rock climb, I on sight flashed it on Top rope, one of my proudest climbs. Ill definitely come back for a Red point.
By SmartRockClimbing
From: Oceano, CA
Aug 22, 2014

Floyd Hayes, I would have to agree about that second pitch. When I tried climbing it with friends, we actually ended up bailing after getting to the third bolt. It's quite the distance between the third and fourth bolt.
By Nick Fuller
From: San Jose, CA
Feb 16, 2015
rating: 5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c R

If you're going to try the second pitch, just know that the anchors are at least 40' past the third bolt from the first anchors. You won't be able to see anything from this last bolt, which is why I have seen many people bail on a draw (myself included). The anchors are there though, keep to the left of the vegetation and climb over the large flake. The climbing is easy for the runout (5.5-5.6) but the distance can be heady.
By stbrooks
From: San Luis Obispo, California
Aug 7, 2015

Finally built up the courage to try Shadow, and I was pleasantly surprised. The first bolt definitely takes concentration and patience, but is comparable to leading Fields of Fire and Fat Man. The 2nd pitch is easy climbing, but I never found a forth bolt, and the anchors are 40-50 feet above the 3rd bolt. Stay left and follow the vegetation to 2nd anchor. There is a beautiful new bolt added to the old, rusty anchor.
By Sean P. Sullivan
From: Clovis, Ca
May 12, 2016

My first lead rope solo. Terrifying. Had my dog there to help get me rescued if I peeled.
By J Potter
May 27, 2017

If you would like something different on the Shadow route, Try the variation clipping the bolts with your right hand, climbing up to the left, smooth side of the route, can be exciting. Done by Joe Potter, S Lewis around 90,named 5 and slim...If anyone has more info if someone climbed this sooner, no doubt someone has, I would like a consensus on the rating they would give. We thought about 5.9. Any takers

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