Ixtlan Buttress, 5.9-5.12a

Ixtlan Buttress, 5.9-5.12a

Page Type: Mountain/Rock
Lat/Lon: 36.03417°N / 115.46333°W
Activities: Trad Climbing
Season: Spring, Summer, Fall


Ixtlan, 5.11c
Ixtlan, 5.11c

Ixtlan Buttress is to the west of the better known Frogland Buttress on Whiskey Peak at the south entrance to Black Velvet Canyon. Ixtlan Buttress showcases one of the more popular 5.10 trad lines at Red Rocks, Triassic Sands, 5 pitches, 730’, another Joe Herbst classic put in way back in ’72 and freed in ’79 by his party as well. The two other popular routes on Ixtlan Buttress are Misunderstanding, two pitches at 5.9, and Ixtlan (the route itself), eight pitches at 5.11c.
Triassic Sands, 5.10c
Triassic Sands, 5.10c

There are a total of 16 published routes (2009) on Ixtlan Buttress. Triassic Sands and Ixtlan take you to the summit of Whiskey Peak which offers a walk off descent whereas the rest of the routes are shorter and need to be rapped. To extend the day after climbing Triassic Sands, we also climbed at the Rad Cliff which is easily accessed via the Whiskey Peak eastern descent.

Black Velvet Canyon itself contains some of the more popular routes at Red Rocks, Epinephrine, Dream of Wild Turkeys and Prince of Darkness. The ease of approach from the parking area as well as the short approach from the canyon floor to the base of these routes add to their attraction, not to mention the rock is quite stellar. Whiskey Peak routes, however, involve more of an ascent up the hill before you actually enter the canyon via the wash. 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. 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). Frogland is the 2nd buttress from the left and is made quite obvious by a large roof about midway up. Once you break through the red cliff band above by its left end, hike right and stay low passing under Frogland Buttress and aiming for Ixtlan Buttress which is the next one west and marked by a tall arch from the ground to about a third of the way up. The crack up the middle of this arch taking on the roof is Ixtlan. Triassic Sands is on the wall to the right of this towering arch.

Route Description(s)

Triassic Sands, 5.10c
Wild Burros
Misunderstanding, 5.9
Triassic Sands From Base
Sandblast, 5.10a
Cacti Bloom

The Routes are Listed Left to Right as you Face the Buttress
    Left of the Arch
  • Kenny Laguna- 250’- 5.10d/

  • Perplexity- 150’- 5.10d/

  • Misunderstanding- 160’- 5.9/
  • There to do Ixtlan, but the winds were the worst I have seen. This two pitch gem is about the most protected (from the wind) climb on Whiskey Peak. The stem box lead was a lot of fun. 2nd pitch was worthy as well. Both short, suppose the rope drag from the roof is the reason. I thought about combining them, but would have shorted my partner. We are curious why this route does not continue. Have since repeated the route with a client and did as one long pitch with doubles. Definitely the way to go. Dow

  • Miss Conception- 155’- 5.10c/

  • Return to Forever- 230’- 5.10d/
  • Return to Forever is just another of many ignored, but stellar, off width climbs located in Red Rock. Red Rock is more of a tourist and/or local sport based climbing area and many of its better 5.10/5.11 splitters get ignored by locals and tourists alike. Handren’s guide gives it one star versus three for Red Zinger for example but Return to Forever is as good as any climb at the grade in Red Rock albeit a short one. It offers pure off-width climbing from bottom to top. The first pitch ends at the top of the splitter (200' to the very top) although I am sure many bail from pulling the roof (crux) which you can do by traversing left onto Miss Conception. You have two choices for the 2nd pitch, left up part of Miss Conception's bolted crux pitch (5.10c) or right up 5.9 trad. The fixed rap is 30' directly above the top of the splitter and both of these variations can traverse into it. I placed double C4#3’s through #6’s and only used anything smaller for the gear station at top of the splitter. Obviously 8 pieces over 200' would be considered run out for many, but the competent off width leader will be good with the same gear. I soloed the first 50’ (easier climbing) to conserve my large gear. The crux of the route is the C4#6 size crack that pulls the roof and is well protected with a #6. We continued climbing via Miss Conception, 5.10c, and rapped off it. With a 70m lead rope, you could continue up and right on easier ground (5.9) and move back left to a modern (2016) rap anchor at 230’. Dow

  • Mazatlan- 150’- 5.10d/

  • In the Arch
  • Ixtlan- 665’- 5.11c/
  • Entry to the splitter actually offers up two options, the original line (left) which is a short fully bolted 5.11c pitch or Matzoland (right), a 5.12a fully bolted pitch. The original pitch crux involves groping a shallow corner to a relatively easy traverse up and right to a fixed belay. We actually combined the first three pitches. The second pitch is a very aesthetic bowed out splitter that protects well with larger gear (4”) or requires more intricate thought on placing pro with a standard rack to 3”. The moves are fun and athletic. Eventually this initial section of the splitter leads to an almost perfectly consistent off-width crack. Either lay back or scoot up the off-width. The FAer’s placed many bolts out right, but if I did the route again, I would rather rely on two C4 #6 cams. Eventually make dramatic moves through a roof with jugs on the outside wall to a comfortable fixed belay. We also combined pitches 4 and 5, which consisted of tame 5.8-5.9 climbing on good rock. The fourth pitch would still require wide protection or reliability on the existing bolts, but the rock is of good quality and the grade level closer to 5.8 than 5.9. The fifth pitch protects with a standard rack as you start to leave the main crack up varied terrain to the left. A fixed belay awaits on a ledge, but again, with mank bolts (2012). It is best to avoid this station by combining pitches 4-6 by simply angling back right towards the end of the 5th pitch to reach a solid gear belay ledge. The 7th pitch offers up the best 5.9 (Handren calls it 5.9+) climbing of the day. Climb up a right facing corner and pull through a bulge and then up to a left facing corner which leads to a gear belay ledge. You will still find mank bolts here and there, but all the climbing from pitch 5 on up protects well with gear. The 8th pitch is rated 5.10a in Handren’s guide, but we did not feel the 5.10 anywhere on it and most of the climbing was 5th class. Hang right of the large feature above and either simul-climb to the top or set up one final anchor with a short bit of climbing to the top right shoulder of Whiskey Peak. Dow

  • Matzoland- 70’- 5.12a/

  • Right of the Arch
  • Cabo San Looseness- 220’- 5.10c/

  • Sand Felipe- 180’- 5.10a/
  • Yes, way over bolted, but easy to skip bolts eh? Nice and long. Can't imagine why any one would skip the last section, just more of the same good stuff to the 2nd anchor, if you are on it, might as well finish it. Good to finish the day with any number of great routes in the area on this wall. Dow

  • Sandblast- 320’- 5.10a/
  • The first pitch can offer a variation via running up San Felipe to a traverse point back right into the long seam that essentially is Sandblast. The reason I mention this variation is the fact that the start of Sandblast is made up of an off width (not much of a chimney as Handren’s guidebook would lead you to believe) section right from the deck that can only be protected with large gear (i.e. #6 camelot). By utilizing San Felipe to a relatively easy traverse, this off width section can be avoided. Both pitches of Sandblast are quite long (160’ each) and once you get past the off width, the first pitch continues through the crux (thin) section of the seam/crack above (left of two cracks) to a manky (2010) bolt and then back right to the same fixed belay used for Triassic Sands. To begin the second pitch, traverse back left on somewhat fragile, but positive edges and holds to follow another thin seam which runs parallel to the Triassic Sands hand crack. This second pitch is steep and sustained for half the pitch and then the seam widens and the climbing becomes much more laid back as you head for the shared fixed belay (ledge) with Triassic once again. Rap the route with double ropes. Dow

  • Triassic Sands- 730’- 5.10c/
  • Radeks notes (the link) are way better than any guidebook as is the norm. Look for 65F in Vegas to make this route partially comfortable. Too much wind coming out of the canyon can make it a tad chilly. I led that 2nd pitch which is fantastic by RR standards, no question about it. After a reachy left hand edge move, I thought the pull above was not overly difficult. The hand crack above was great, thank god since I could not feel my fingers anymore. Placing gear at will over a long pitch is why everybody talks about bringing so many cams. Enjoyed that upper 5.10a pitch as well, gave you a little bit of everything as you twisted, turned and pulled your way through that corner. The 5.8 was also outstanding for the grade. Hit the Rad Cliff on your right on the way down to do Azkaban Jam to extend the day. Dow

  • Cole Essence- 60’- 5.11c/

  • Archaeopteryx- 485’- 5.11a/

  • Off the Lip- 80’- 5.10d/

  • Desert Wave- 80’- 5.11b/

Descent off of Whiskey Peak

If you ascend one of the two longer routes on Ixtlan Buttress that take you to the summit of Whiskey Peak, you can descend relatively easily via a col between Whiskey Peak and Black Velvet Peak.

You have two options. If you are descending back to the parking area, you can descend off of the col between Whiskey Peak and Black Velvet Peak to the left, 2nd and/or 3rd class down climbing or if you are climbing further down canyon, you can descend to the right of the col.... one or two raps may be required via this option depending on your down climbing experience. You will pass by the ever popular Dream of Wild Turkeys and Prince of Darkness and will most likely see at least one party on this section of the Black Velvet Wall.

Essential Gear

These are all trad lines and will require an assortment of gear as spelled out in Jerry’s Handren’s “Red Rocks, A Climbers Guide. The routes leading to the top of Whisky Peak allow for a quick descent from the col between Whisky Peak and Black Velvet Peak. Carrying shoes up for this descent would be worthwhile. The routes are north facing and most pitches are well protected from the sun, even somewhat chilly if spring climbing, so take a jacket! (I need to read my own notes more often).