Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 36.03500°N / 115.46639°W
Additional Information Route Type: Technical Rock Climb
Additional Information Time Required: A long day
Additional Information Difficulty: 5.9, IV/V
Sign the Climber's Log


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.

Route Description

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.

Essential Gear

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!

Additions and CorrectionsPost an Addition or Correction

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brutus of wyde

brutus of wyde - Jun 26, 2005 4:40 pm - Hasn't voted

Route Comment

4 pitches can get you to the top of the Black Tower. Bypass the first set of belay bolts on P3, continue to the second set 60m out. Another 60m reaches the top of the Black Tower.

If hauling a pack (second climbs with it on the easy pitches) clip the haul rope through the last protection bolt before the top of the Black Tower. This will allow the leader to haul the pack to there without it getting jammed in the chimneys. Leader ties off pack when it reaches bolt, and belays second up. Second frees pack and off you go.

From the top of the Black Tower, it is possible to link the next three (Swain) pitches with a 60m rope. Due to the several traverses on this bit, you will run out of rope unless you employ liberal use of slings to shorten the rope path.

At the end of the last 5.9 pitch, shorten the rope and simul-climb to the end of the technical difficulties, placing enough pro that you are never simul-soloing. this section is mostly 4th class with a very few easy 5th class moves.


gbperkins - Dec 3, 2010 9:20 pm - Hasn't voted

Fastest Known Ascent

I think the fastest time isn't accurate. Josh Smith and I climbed Epinephrine in 5h 0m car-to-car, roped, without simulclimbing until the 4th class at the top, in 11/2009. I'm sure people have been faster than us though.


cabeaux - Mar 9, 2018 10:18 pm - Hasn't voted

Honnold Claims Fastest Ascent

On his Instagram account, Honnold claims he just climbed Epinepherine in 39:50 today. Sounds about right. For him, anyway.

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