I consider Amber a hidden gem in Black Velvet Canyon at Red Rock, NV. It is a four pitch wonder located on one of my favorite walls in terms of the quality of rock and steepness of the routes, the north face of Whiskey Peak which includes Ixtlan and Wholesome Fullback buttresses. Although not near as popular as Triassic Sands (5.10b), Amber is of similar length, quality and grade. Amber shares the first pitch of the much more traveled Wholesome Fullback (5.10a). The Wholesome Fullback route is much shorter than Amber and ends at the top of a detached flake/tower whereas Amber reaches the top of the wall/buttress at this end of Whiskey Peak.
The four pitches of Amber each offer solid climbing at their respective grade. The first pitch is getting a bit more difficult with increased traffic. It is the same thin gear crack that starts Wholesome Fullback, so I had led it before. The few features outside or inside the seam are getting a bit polished. C3’s and smaller wires do afford bomber placements as you move through a few precarious moves off the deck. The grade eases as you climb up and left to a fixed belay ledge. The second pitch is the crux of Amber. There is a 5.12 variation that follows bolts up and left. The 5.10c original pitch of Amber however uses the idyllic hand crack out right which is followed by several intricate face moves at the grade back left to enter the obvious flaring chimney above. Several bolts protect this traverse as well as there is a bolt up beside the large flake, although it fully protects with small gear. Make burly moves up the flaring chimney/flake to its top and continue on easier ground moving back left to a fixed anchor on a decent ledge in an obvious corner. The third pitch ignores the corner and runs up the good crack up right through the left side of a roof. Follow this pitch up the crack until you can traverse out right to reach several bolts. Follow these bolts through a bulge and back into a seam. Follow the crack on its featured right side until you can move back left at the very top to reach the fixed semi-hanging belay. The fourth pitch is a pleasant 5.8 pitch that follows a crack up to a small roof and pulls same as you trend right to the left side of the arête at the top of Wholesome Fullback Buttress. Follow the arête via the left side to the top of the wall and a fixed rap anchor. Rap the route with doubles.
Whiskey Peak routes involve more of an ascent up the hill before you actually enter the canyon via the wash with the exception of Wholesome Fullback Buttress, which can be accessed via its own trail further west in the wash. Pick up the Black Velvet primitive road at the paved trailhead out on Hwy 160. Follow this road as it crosses a dip that will be difficult to navigate with a low clearance vehicle depending on conditions. Continue to a fence and follow the road as it turns left. This bumpy road ends at a trailhead area. From the parking area, follow the old road until a trail leaves it heading for the canyon (right). The trail eventually splits with one fork heading down to the wash and the other heading up the hill towards the red cliff band on your left below a row of protruding buttresses (Whiskey Peak). For Wholesome Fullback Buttress, head down the wash and hike west quite a bit looking for a loose reddish trail on your left that is directly below the large pillar that easily marks the middle of the buttress. Meander up this trail to the base of that pillar for the routes Amber, Wholesome Fullback and Our Father.
Route Description525’+/-, 4 Pitches, 5.10c
1st Pitch- 80’- 5.10/ Climb the thin crack up to easier ground that leads left and up to a ledge with a fixed belay/rap. The first couple meters off the deck involve the more difficult, somewhat polished, moves. Either flared nuts or C3’s make for some bomber placements but quite a bit of thought has to go into not trading the few intricate features needed to climb this section for gear placements. Eventually a solid hand jam pulls you up to much easier ground. Traverse up left on large jugs to the fixed belay ledge.
2nd Pitch- 160’- 5.10c/ This is one of the finer pitches in Black Velvet Canyon. A 5.12 variation follows the bolt line up and left from the belay. The original version moves back right and down to start in the 5.9 hand crack. Climb the crack up until you can follow several bolts up and left at the grade (5.10c) making a few precarious moves to enter the flaring chimney above. Make burly moves up the flaring chimney/flake which has a bolt on the left wall, but protects in the crack well. Once through this physical and fun section, continue up easier and chossier ground moving left over the corner high above to find the fixed belay/rappel on a small ledge below a chossy corner.
3rd Pitch- 150’- 5.9/ Move back right to climb the nice hand crack up through the left portion of a roof. Continue up the crack until it becomes a small closed right facing corner. Look for bolts up and right that lead through a small roof pull. Continue up nice varnished ground on the right hand side of a thin seam. When even with the fixed belay/rappel out left, traverse left via a few positive moves to gain the belay. This latter portion is a bit run out with some fixed pro.
4th Pitch- 135’- 5.8/ This is yet another good pitch. Follow the varnished wall via a thin crack up to the roof above locating a bolt over the roof. Mantle up on large jugs and head for the arête out right. Follow the face climbing just to the left of the arête to a fixed rappel station on top of the wall/buttress.