On a cold January day, when no other souls dare show up at the trailhead, much less climb on the cold north facing rock of Black Velvet Wall
, we ventured back to knock off one of the final routes I had yet to climb on this wall, Yellow Brick Road
. Yellow Brick Road steals the first two pitches of the ultra classic route, Dream of Wild Turkeys (DOWT)
, and since it is formally only four pitches in length including those two from DOWT, it is obviously not very original. Yellow Brick Road adds two Prince of Darkness
type of pitches (5.10 crimpy face) to that really nice 5.9 crack second pitch of DOWT. The Urioste’s
put the route up during 1985
, one year after establishing Prince of Darkness.
2nd Pitch- 150’- 5.9
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.
You park at the Black Velvet trail head which can be reached off of NV 160. Although a 4wd is not necessarily essential, a high clearance vehicle is your best guarantee of not getting stuck or busting your oil pan as I have witnessed in prior trips. At the moment, January of 2010, low clearance cars seem to be making this road just fine in its current decent conditions. Throw in a couple of hard rains, who knows.
From the final 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. Yellow Brick Road shares the same first two pitches of DOWT.
Route Description500’+/-, 4 Pitches, 5.10c
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 and Yellow Brick Road.
2nd Pitch- 150’- 5.9/
This is one of the finer 5.9 crack pitches at Red Rocks. 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- 130’- 5.10c/
This pitch seemed a mirror image of the 5.10 pitches on Prince of Darkness
just to the left. You start up the nice varnished crack of DOWT’s third pitch and then follow the bolt line above versus traverse right as you would for DOWT. You actually pass a weird plaque put in by the Urioste’s to show the way I guess. Follow approximately seven bolts up the steep varnished face to a fixed station.
4th Pitch- 120’- 5.10a/
Continue up similar ground with a mix of pro and fixed gear as the varnish gives way to lesser quality rock. Make a couple of 5.10 slab moves
to gain the upper DOWT intersection, utilizing the same anchor as the top of pitch five for DOWT
Either continue up DOWT to the top of its seventh pitch which is also the top of Prince of Darkness and rappel Prince of Darkness; or you can go ahead and rappel from the top of Yellow Brick Road with an experienced climber who does not mind the walk over on rappel to get left enough to tie into Prince of Darkness’s rap line. You will require double ropes for the descent (unless you are Chuck, then you are so &$*#&^ good that you can just down climb Black Velvet wall!)
Double 60m ropes
. Single Rack to 2”, mostly for the 2nd pitch and start of the 3rd pitch. Few shoulder length slings, mostly draws. Don’t be fooled about how warm you feel at the base after the approach.
The sun gets blocked out in the spring and fall (or completely in the winter) as it ascends before mid morning and the rock can suck the warmth right out of you. I have been on this wall several times during the spring and used a toque and long sleeve shirts despite being quite sweaty in a short sleeve on the approach. I climbed this route in January, but really don’t recommend climbing these north facing routes much in the dead of winter.
External LinksRed Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, BLM
Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association