Black Velvet Wall is the crown jewel climbing destination at Red Rocks. Located on the north face of Black Velvet Peak. Black Velvet Wall is home to some of the most infamous routes in the entire park including but not limited to Dream of Wild Turkeys, Prince of Darkness and Epinephrine. At the 5.10 grades, one would be hard pressed to find this quality of sustained wall free climbing bunched so close together in one location. Zion National Park for example does not offer a wall with this many established routes, not to mention few of the long routes in Zion go free.
Black Velvet Wall is about free climbing. Not one of the many outstanding routes on Black Velvet Wall were intended for aid nor rated that way by the first accentors. That is the tradition that the Uriostes and others had in mind as they developed the area. The ethics were such, that bolts were only used where necessary to avoid long run outs. Adding bolts on the wall is frowned upon in a big way and to date, ethics have won out. Not every line is a majority traditional one however. Prince of Darkness was nothing more than an attempt to run the straightest line they could up the wall. In doing so, it is almost a sport route, but where cracks intersect the path, fixed gear is absent.
I have climbed most of the classic routes on this wall and it is next to impossible to pick a favorite. Overhanging Hangover and Sour Mash offer unique roof situations. The Gobbler and Dream of Wild Turkeys offer some incredible mixed terrain. Prince of Darkness gives you a full day of crimpy face climbing. Epinephrine offers some of the best chimney climbing anywhere in the lower 48.
Black Velvet Wall is best thought of as two seperate sections, left and right, with Epinephrine’s black tower dividing the wall. The routes that reach the summit can be walked off to the east. Black Velvet Peak is a serious objective by Red Rocks standards and takes a full day with plenty of light to finish a route to the summit and find your way off. Because Black Velvet Wall is the north face of Black Velvet Peak, these objectives make for much better spring-summer-fall objectives versus winter ones.
You park at the Black Velvet trail head which can be reached off of NV 160. During 2008, the regular Black Velvet dirt road was under construction and thus closed. As of 2009 it is re-opened with a paved trailhead off of the highway. Drive through the paved parking area and access a dirt road at the east end. 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. Continue on this trail until you come to a fork whose right option descends into the wash. Stay with the wash all the way to the dry waterfall. This dry waterfall is an obstacle that clearly involves a 5th class move or two to overcome. Back up a few steps and look for a trail that ascends the south bank to the base of a short white sandstone cliff. Scramble up the cliff (3rd-4th class), moving left to right until you hook into another trail that leads further up to the base of the wall. The start of Prince of Darkness and Dream of Wild Turkeys is an obvious large light colored flake feature that ends at the start of the intense climbing on the solid dark wall above. Dream of Wild Turkeys takes off on a right angled long crack and Prince of Darkness goes straight up the center of the wall. Drop back down into the wash after you circumvent the dry waterfall if you are headed for Epinephrine and the routes on the “right” side of the wall.
- The Routes are Listed Left to Right as you Face the Wall
- Spark Plug- 100’- 5.10b/
- Cutting Edge- 120’- 5.11b/
- Smooth as Silk- 340’- 5.10d/
- Refried Brains- 2000’- 5.9/ One of the last routes on Black Velvet Wall for me, yet I have to say I think it is underated. For the grade, I thought those first four pitches made for a real nice route. I traversed on the 2nd pitch, out right of the corner on a hard move to follow a different line up and right. Sure folks are doing both corners there. 1st and 3rd pitches were quite stellar I thought. Dow
- The Flesh- 2000’- 5.10d/
- American Ghostdance- 1200’- 5.12a/
- Sandstone Samurai- 730’- 5.11a/
- Rock Warrior- 900’- 5.10b/
- Prince of Darkness- 665’- 5.10c/ Prince of Darkness is 3rd in popularity only to Dream of Wild Turkeys and Epinephrine and for good reason: the pitches are long and sustained at the grade offering good value for the effort of the drive and hike. Dream of Wild Turkeys and Prince of Darkness both share the same (fast 5th class scramble) first pitch. So if somebody is ahead of you in the canyon, more than likely that is where they are headed. Dow
- Dream of Wild Turkeys- 1000’- 5.10a/ The beta is all over the place in terms of pitch grades, how many pitches are worth climbing, etc. Jerry Handren’s “A Climber’s Guide” has Dream of Wild Turkeys at 10 pitches and that is what we climbed. Swain’s description in the Falcon Guide speaks of rapping after the first seven pitches, but that would leave out two excellent pitches, one of which might be the finest of the route, pitch 9. One can also top out on Black Velvet Peak itself via Dream of Wild Turkeys and I recommend considering this option if you have yet to be to the summit. I had been to the summit several times via Epinephrine and thus was content in climbing to the top of the Black Velvet Wall, which is described below in 10 pitches. I disagree with Supertopo’s description on several points. The 3rd pitch 5.10a climbing involves the corner itself, not the traverse. The traverse, which is very well bolted by the way, relies on decent foot ledges the whole way across. In no way did I feel that involved 5.10a climbing. The steep crack, buried in a shallow corner, up to the start of the traverse did have me huffing and puffing on lead however. I also did not feel the next traverse, pitch 5, was 5.10a either. I tend to agree more with Handren on this one, that it is 5.9+ if even. The 5.10a slab moves out of the corner on pitch 4 however, are above 5.10a no doubt, thus this section is the crux of the route by consenus. Pitch 7 was a hard pitch, pitch 9 was a fun pitch and pitch 2 might be the best pitch. Dow
- Yellow Brick Road- 630’- 5.10c/ There are many ways to incorporate the two exclusive pitches of Yellow Brick Road into a full day climb. You can exit onto them from DOWT or the Gobbler (via a reverse traverse of the third pitch on DOWT) and continue above them via DOWT. In fact, combined with DOWT pitches, you can make almost as a direct line up the Black Velvet Wall as Prince of Darkness. Both of the exclusive Yellow Brick Road pitches are heavily bolted with a spattering of trad protection mixed in. Dow
- Gobbler- 290’- 5.10a/ The route is a stout 5.10a climb. All three pitches are quite sustained offering completely diverse climbing from pitch to pitch. The first pitch is bolted slab, the 2nd pitch involves a crack, traverse move (crux of the route) as well as chimney placing gear all the while, and the last pitch is sustained edgy face climbing through mixed protection, typical of most face climbing on Black Velvet Wall. The Gobbler ends at the comfortable belay ledge at the base of the 4th pitch of Dream of Wild Turkeys. Dow
- Year Mcallen- 120’- 5.11d/
- Fiddler on the Roof- 820’- 5.10d/
- Overhanging Hangover- 220’- 5.10a/ 2nd pitch is full of bird shit in mid May....I mean, every hold is slimy and your shoes become slippery with it....but if you can catch it without the poop, incredible route I thought...you look up at the roof and say no way it can be turned at 5.10a without aid, but there is a tiny finger crack with a few tiny foot placements that make it work. The first pitch had some great slab moves on it....almost 5.10b I thought. Dow
- Early Times- 820’- 5.10c/ (used to link Overhanging Hangover with Dream of Wild Turkeys)
- Johnny Come Lately- 115’- 5.10d/
- Sour Mash- 695’- 5.10a/ Jerry Handren’s Red Rocks guide book, “A Climber’s Guide”, has Sour Mash at seven pitches in length, but he got confused compiling the beta. It can and should clearly be done in six. He has the third pitch at 170’ which is correct, but this clearly puts you below the fifth pitch, thus no need for the short fourth pitch (as outlined in his guide), although you should use the mid station rappel anchors on descent with two 60m ropes. Another typo in Jerry’s guide book is that pitch one is 5.10a, not 5.8. Supertopo has a more accurate description of that pitch as a 5.10a. Rated higher in sustainability in Jerry’s book than Dream of Wild Turkey’s, Sour Mash does have three graded 5.10a pitches, two of them full on and two challenging 5.9 pitches along with one long and fun 5.8 pitch. Dow
- My Little Pony- 640’- 5.11d/
- Velveeta- 710’- 5.11a/
- Chalk is Cheap- 700’- 5.10d/
- Malicious Mischief- 700’- 5.10c/
- Velvet Wall- Original Route- 2000’- 5.9/
- Epinephrine- 2240’- 5.9/ Despite what many guide books or magazine articles might suggest, Epinephrine is not as intimidating as it might sound. I have climbed it on several occasions and the route can safely and comfortably be completed in 11 pitches. We usually bypass the first pitch to the right. Then two easy pitches land you into the daunted chimney. All three of the main chimney pitches are 5.9. The middle one has a tough squeeze crux and the last one is a bit run out, but all are well within the grade. The 2nd face pitch outside the chimney is the best wall pitch for sure. Short, but steep and sustained. The rest of the pitches are nothing too spectacular, but pleasant climbing. If you are climbing during the winter the exit to the outside ridge with the tree can be interesting if chocked full of ice and snow. The descent is normally quite well marked with cairns. Dow
- Ancient Futures- 750’- 5.12a/
- Texas Tower Direct- 800’- 5.12d/
- The Velvet Tongue- 290’- 5.12d/
- Yellow Rose of Texas- 700’- 5.11a/ The recommended first pitch is an obvious left facing chimney to the right of Epinephrine. The original first pitch to Yellow Rose, by the FAer’s own admission, is a not a worthy pitch due to bad rock. I ignored them and wish I hadn't. Choss does not get much worse in RR then this original first pitch. However the left facing chimney just to the right of Epinephrine now has two bolts to a fixed anchor and goes well as a start to Yellow Rose. The second pitch is on black varnish and climbs quickly to the ledge above. The third pitch is 3rd class and involves moving the belay to the upper wall below the right side of the tower. The fourth pitch is a fun pitch for the grade on great rock. In fact the rest of the climbing on Yellow Rose of Texas from this point on if stellar. The fifth pitch is best combined with the crux sixth pitch as they are in line with each other versus stepping left to a belay ledge in between the pitches. The end of the sixth pitch starts the climbing in the right side of the tower and is a fun pitch on first bolts (5.11) and then gear. The seventh pitch is the off-width portion and is probably the reason you are climbing the route. I combined the seventh and eight pitches but can’t recommend it as the rope drag detracted from the climbing. The eighth pitch is short but sweet up twin finger cracks to the summit of Texas Tower. Dow
- Texas Hold Em- 1090’- 5.11c/
- Lone Star- 2050’- 5.11a/
- Texas Tower Connection- 1000’- 5.10aR/ The first pitch of Texas Tower Connection is an inviting endeavor on good rock with good pro. The crux of this pitch comes after you make an easy jug move at the start of the leftward traverse and then have to make a balance move (no hands) to gain a left leaning ramp. Once you gain the ramp, good pro on good rock lead up to a fixed belay. The second pitch involves a much longer leftward traverse (continuing straight left, not down as Handren references in his guide) on positive (but slightly suspect) edges. There is more pro than Handren suggests in his guide via a right facing corner you cross over on the traverse that takes good gear. Continue straight left after this corner passing several relic (2015) bolts. You arrive at two more relics (2015) at the base of a shallow seam. This is the old station. Instead of setting up a station on these bad bolts, down climb approximately 10’ and continue to traverse left to a modern rap (that belongs to another route) on a small ledge. On the third pitch, re-climb past the old station and follow the bolted shallow seam up to the last bolt and then traverse right under the large roof above on easy holds to a fixed belay (one decent bolt-2015). This third pitch is the crux of the climb and takes approximately three good pieces over 90’+/- which supplement the 35 year old bolts (2015). The last pitch is easy climbing up and left through the chossy roof and then up the right side of the Elephant Trunk on Epinephrine. This last pitch does not have much in the way of pro as it meanders through bad rock until you hit the right facing corner on the Elephant Trunk. Dow
- Twixt Cradle and Stone- 1000'+/- 5.10c and Phein Air (5.11a variation)/ Established in 2014, Twixt Cradle and Stone offers the same quality stone found on the infamous route just to the east that Jorge and Joanne established 35 years earlier, Epinephrine. The best of the route can be done in 6 long pitches (Handren’s 2nd edition might have those same pitches broken into 7 or 8) and rapped via double 60m ropes. The first pitch is not connected to the main wall where you find Twixt. In other words the majority of the route lays hidden from the depths of the canyon floor. I have climbed a direct version of this first pitch on the lower wall that was established as the first pitch to Yellow Rose of Texas in 1978. It is not a pleasant pitch (5.10x). Instead, the start of Twixt borrows a variation first pitch to Yellow Rose and is the easiest pitch of the route: a rather benign and wide left facing corner up canyon 120’ from Epinephrine. This pitch lands you on a large bush filled terrace. For Yellow Rose, you scramble up and right just a few meters and then up a varnished crack. For Twixt, you continue right along the base of the main wall and up to the next break which is more of a chimney. From there one long pitch, or two shorter ones, lands you to the base of the beautiful varnished chimney/flake/roof above. The original version of Twixt goes up this varnished chimney and breaks out right until you are eventually converting to hand jamming as you reach a hanging fixed belay.
- Tri Tip- 950’- 5.11d/
- Velvet Revolver- 600’- 5.11b/
- Great Expectations- 785’- 5.9/
A cool and obvious variation (I was there on the FA and they eventually named this variation Plein Air, 5.11a, 2015) pulls the roof nested in the base of the varnished chimney which is quite physical (and loads of fun I might add). But the original line of Twixt continues from atop the chimney via a right facing corner that leads to a beautiful finger splitter (crux of the route). At the top of the splitter, traverse left (bolt) to a fixed belay ledge. The next pitch again has a variation. I FAed a chossy crack straight up which turns into an amazing varnished and flared finger crack chimney with a 180 degree move at the end to pull a small white roof. I don’t know if they decided to include this in Plein Air or not, but can say it is my favorite pitch of either route due to the unique curving overhanging corner requiring a multitude of climbing disciplines (I give it 5.10+). The original line of Twixt (easier pitch=5.9) goes up and right on a varnished left facing corner, passing a few bolts before working its way back left and up to a sloping fixed belay ledge at the same spot that the before mentioned variation pulls the small white roof. The final pitch I have climbed on Twixt (the route can go to the top if you want via much less aesthetic climbing) goes up and right via steep varnished terrain to a corner. The corner is steep and exciting for a move or two as it pulls a small roof (past a bolt) and then angles back left and up to a flat ledge with a fixed rap. Dow