From the parking area near the mouth of Black Velvet Canyon, hike up the old dirt road for a couple hundred yards, the take the trail that heads to the right. Follow this into the canyon. After a little less than a half-mile, a trail will drop down into the wash. Take it. Follow the wash for another half-mile or so. When your path is blocked by a waterfall (usually dry), head up and left on Class 3 terrain. Or, you can do a little 5.easy climbing up the waterfall. The start of the climb is about 50m up the canyon from here.
Epinephrine is the Red Rocks classic. The route is long, varied, and has consistently good rock. The first half of the climb follows a spectacular chimney system. The second half ascends steep faces, cracks, and dihedrals. The chimneys have rebuffed more than one spindly-legged, 5.12 sport climber and have introduced countless other climbers to previously unknown levels of cardiovascular fatigue. That being said, the route is probably a bit soft for its 5.9 rating. The 5.9 sections on the upper pitches are probably equivalent to a Yosemite Valley 5.8, but it's hard to make a direct comparison since the climbing is so different to granite. Anyway, some people rappel with two ropes after the chimney pitches, but they're missing out on the best climbing, IMO.
The route has forced many unplanned bivies. My advice is to go fast and light. Also, make sure you're solid on 5.9 chimneys.
Todd Swain's guidebook describes the climb in 18 pitches, but it can be done in 11 with a 60m rope:
Pitch 1 (5.8) Start at the base of a steep, gray face (see photo). Climb past a couple bolts up to a ledge with a few small trees. Continue up a white face, over a small roof, and past a slabby bolt-protected move to the belay. If you place a lot of gear, rope drag will be terrible. So, either use a lot of long runners, run it out, or do it in two pitches.
Pitch 2 (5.6) Climb up the chimney to easier terrain. This is your warmup for the more serious chimneys above. Belay at the base of the major chimney system.
Pitch 3 (5.9) Follow tricky 5.8 flakes up to the "real" chimney section. Grunt, squirm, and slither your way to the belay 170 ft above. This is probably the most cardiovascularly tasking pitch of the entire climb. Conservation of energy and minimization of effort is critical.
Pitch 4 (5.9) I think this is the hardest pitch of the climb. Paste your foot on the slippery chimney wall that's angling the "wrong" way, arm bar in the off-width at the back of the chimney, and worm your way up to a good bucket. Continue over some tricky blocks and cracks to a beautiful 15' hand crack. Belay on a nice (but small) ledge with bolts.
Pitch 5 (5.9) A tricky mantle starts the pitch off. Then, the climbing turns to "feet/knees to back" chimneying. Finish at the top of the tower. This is a really fun pitch.
Pitch 6 (5.7) Switch into face climbing mode, and cruise the bolt-protected 5.7 face above. Pull the 5.7 roof, and head right to a good ledge.
Pitch 7 (5.9) Move the belay right to the base of the "Elephant's Trunk". Head up the Trunk (5.6), past a two-bolt anchor, and up a steep 5.9 face to another two-bolt anchor. The climbing here is exquisite. There are good holds everywhere, but it's steep and really exposed.
Pitch 8 (5.9) Climb up another beautiful face/dihedral to an alcove with a two-bolt anchor. More steepness and exposure!
Pitch 9 (5.8) Follow the dihedral for 170 ft or so to a two-bolt anchor. This pitch is fun cruising.
Pitch 10 (5.9) Continue up the dihedral to a 5.9-ish roof. Pull it, step left, and belay. The roof is probably not 5.9. People think it's that hard because they're so tired by this point.
Pitch 11 (5.6) Fly up easy terrain to the end of the technical difficulties.
Continue up and to the right on the ramp for about 700 more feet of Class 4 climbing with intermittent Class 5 moves. To descend, hike up and back toward the summit. Follow the cairns on the ridge back toward the parking lot. After a while (longer than you'd expect), some rough, meandering climbers trails head down and left. Follow them all the way down.
Bring standard rack up to a #4 Camalot. If you bring a #4, you'll use it once or twice in the chimneys, then you'll just be carrying it as dead weight during the rest of the climb. If it's hot out, make sure you have water. Don't take a pack unless you absolutely have to. If you take one, be prepared to haul it through the chimneys.
Fastest Known Ascents
The fastest known ascent by a roped team took 5 hours and 10 minutes (Bill Wright and George Bell).
The fastest known solo ascent (unroped) is 1 hour and 6 minutes (Josh Swartz).
If you or someone you know has done it faster, post an update here. The clock starts at the base of the first pitch and stops at the top of the 18th pitch described in Todd Swain's guidebook. I'd be interested to see more Epinephrine speed attemps. Go for it!
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