I had hiked by Dream of Wild Turkeys en route to other objectives on several occasions, Epinephrine twice, Sour Mash, etc. Waiting for warmer temps, I finally checked in on Dream of Wild Turkeys on a beautiful May day. This route is one of the most notable classics at Red Rocks due in part to its exposure running the height of one of the most pristine walls in desert climbing, Black Velvet Wall. Dream of Wild Turkeys was put up in 1980 by the Uriostes (Jorge and Joanne) and was considered a major attraction to Red Rocks climbing early on.
Although Dream of Wild Turkeys follows the most obvious route up Black Velvet Wall via several fantastic cracks and corners among some steep face climbing, I was quite disappointed by the number of bolts placed on the route. Whether more bolts were added during the re-bolt effort or the Uriostes placed that many on the initial run, the route could do with half as many of them. That is the major complaint with the route when reading summit logs and I must concur. The best example is pitch two which needed few if any bolts.
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.
You park at the Black Velvet trail head which can be reached off of NV 160. During 2008, the regular Black Velvet dirt road is under construction and thus closed. To access it beyond the closed construction area, you must drive further east on 160 to the Windy Peak turn off over a cattle guard. Stay right and take the left detours whenever possible to avoid tremendous pot holes and obstacles in the road. Although a 4wd is not always essential, a high clearance vehicle is your best guarantee of not getting stuck or busting your oil pan as we have witnessed.
Continue down the Windy Peak road until you reach a turn off on the right that has been marked with a sign (2008) for Black Velvet Canyon road. Turn right and this road will dead end into the appropriate road. Turn left and follow this road to its end. From the parking area, follow the road until a trail leaves it heading for the canyon. 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. Take the trail into the wash. Eventually you come to a steep dry waterfall area. Turn around and locate a trail up the left bank. Via some 3rd class scrambling this trail leads up to the base of Black Velvet Wall. Dream of Wild Turkeys starts up an obvious break to the left of a large arch at the bottom center/right side of the wall and ends at the top of the wall to the right of another large arch, center of the wall.
1000’+/-, 10 Pitches, 5.10a
1st Pitch- 75’- 5.7-/ I believe other guides/topos besides Handren’s calls this a 5.6 pitch and I tend to agree. Head up fast and furious across easy ground staying out of the corner to the right, up and to a small ledge with a bolted anchor. The bolts directly above relate to Prince of Darkness who shares this first pitch. The bolts moving right and into the crack/shallow corner represent the 2nd pitch of Dream of Wild Turkeys.
2nd Pitch- 150’- 5.9/ Might be the best pitch of the route. A mix of trad and bolts, this is a long and sustained pitch at the grade. Move right into the crack/shallow corner past two bolts. Follow the crack as it slants rightward to a fixed station below a straight up and down, deeper crack/shallow corner. Most of this pitch could have done without the bolts you see or use along the way.
3rd Pitch- 80’- 5.10a/ Handren and Supertopo call this pitch 5.10a, but Supertopo shows the 5.10a moves on the traverse, versus the crack. It is the opposite. The crack is mostly trad protection on 40’ of steep and crimpy ground. Once you move out right following the tight bolt line traverse, you will find numerous decent foot ledges. Continue past 5 bolts to the base of a large corner/small chimney and a fixed station. This provides the 2nd largest and most comfortable belay ledge of the day.
4th Pitch- 190’- 5.10a/ The crux pitch of the day as well as rope drag. The crux moves are at the top of the corner as you unlock the slab moves left across several bolts as they angle up to the fixed station, with considerable rope drag at this juncture. Mantle up into the wide crack and follow it, at times moving out right onto easier face features, until you near the end of the pitch and can see the two bolts out left. Take on the crux to the fixed station and hanging belay. About the only time you use your larger gear during the day will be in this corner.
5th Pitch- 60’- 5.9+/ Again, Supertopo has this at 5.10a, but Handren has it at 5.9+ which is where it belongs. Neither of the traverses on this route are as bad as they might look on a topo. Just like the previous traverse this one is tightly bolted. You will not need gear. Move out left and angle up following the bolt line (5-6 bolts). One bolt looks to be a little high and above it yet are other bolts which allow you to combine pitches 5 and 6 if you want. I chose to follow the traditional route and kept traversing to a decent belay ledge below a corner. If you clip that higher bolt, put a sling on it versus a draw as your next bolt will actually be slightly lower. The climbing is easier the more you traverse, so any crux is early. It is all pretty tame except for maybe one move where there is not much in the way of hands or feet.
6th Pitch- 140’- 5.9/ Do not go up the corner, rather bow out right and follow a ramp up nice face climbing. Follow the bolts back left into the corner (8 bolts). A fixed anchor awaits above.
7th Pitch- 110’- 5.9/ A full on pitch for the grade. Follow a small crack/seam above on a lower angled portion of the wall, but using crimpy feet as it steepens over the face. Place gear to reach the first bolts and follow them (5 bolts) via face climbing up to a large ledge that is also the top of Prince of Darkness. Many parties call it quits here, but the final two pitches are well worth doing to the top of the wall.
8th Pitch- 80’- 4th Class/ Follow the ramp to the right until it makes sense to climb up left to another ramp that you can follow back left to a fixed station below a steep, well-featured, right-facing corner/crack.
9th Pitch- 140’- 5.9/ Perhaps the 2nd best pitch of the route. Again, too many bolts however. Follow the corner/crack up good rock placing gear at will. Move right over a bulge to face climbing and more bolts above (7 bolts total). Follow fun ground to a fixed station on a small slopey ledge.
10th Pitch- 150’- 5.9/ An easier 5.9 pitch trending slightly right over face holds past 4 bolts into a crack. Protect and follow the crack up to your final fixed belay.
DescentYou can continue up for several more roped 5th class pitches that eventually lead to scrambling up the ridge to the summit of Black Velvet Peak. At that point you can walk off as described for Epinephrine. Since we had been to the summit several times and did not want to haul shoes, extra water or our bags, we chose to rappel the route. Take two double rope 60m raps to reach the top of pitch 7. Rappel Prince of Darkness to climbers left to avoid the rope eater pitch 4 of Dream of Wild Turkeys. With 60’s, you will have to hit every fixed station on Prince of Darkness except for the final rappel which covers Prince of Darkness’s first two pitches. So in all, 7 double 60m rope rappels reach the ground. There are still loose blocks here and there on this wall believe it or not. Use care in rappelling on top of others.
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