On day 11 we all decided to go to one of the most impressive places in all of Red Rock- Black Velvet Canyon – A home to 150 routes, some being of the world class and fame. The most famous probably being Epineprine – recently featured in Alex Honnold’s HURT (where he free soloed it as part of his full Red Rock traverse). I’m not quite ready for this type of climbing yet (it’s technically ‘only 5.9’, but features mega chimney system for many of its 13 pitches), but the route is not outside of realm of possibilities in the future.
Below: Inside Dal Riada's Las Vegas HQ - sorting gear.
Either way, we left the Dal Riada’s Las Vegas HQ at 9am (which for Paul and my standards is rather early for this trip, but for the purpose of climbing in Black Velvet is crimnally late – more about it later).
We drove 2 cars to the first BV carpark, (Calvin and Clare being in the other) and then we hopped into their more offroady vehicle. That saved us 50min walk to the ‘advanced’ one.
Below: Paul and I setting of towards Black Velvet Wall.
From ther we split into 2 groups. Paul and I walked towards the Black Velvet Wall area, that has so many quality long, multipitch climbs that you simply cant be standing there for hours before deciding.
This took around 40 mins of not too hard walkin. Fun fact: on the way in, right on the path is Return of the Sleepwalker World’s 2nd V17 boulder – and one of a few of that grade in the world. Looks Mega impressive.
We were hoping to jump on the Dream of Wild Turkeys, a 5.10a mega classic, but since it already had 2 parties on it, (and we were late), we didnt want to risk getting stuck in a jam, and decided on nearby Sour Mash, 5.10a.
Below: Paul at the base of Black Velvet Wall. Sour Mash on the left, Dream of Wild Turkeys and Prince of Darknes behind and left.
It has a mix of different styles of climbing, from a moderate trad pitches, well protected crack climbing, to a fully bolted crux pitche. The route goes for almost 200m (and does not top out the mountain).
Below: Paul enjoying the exposure.
Since we were starting late (and likely would have to walk all the way to our car, since we asked Clare and Calvin not to wait for us), we decided that if we want to do the whole thing, and be back on the ground (or ideally in the car) before the forecasted rain at 4pm, we should move fast. This meant that Paul would have to do most of the leading (since I’m much slower). I was fine with that, so was he. So we set off.
Below: Me following on the steeper parts.
Paul and I climbed enough togehter over last number of years, that we can communicate on the wall almost without words – this comes handy, on those 60m linked pitches, when we only have 50m ropes… Handing over leads, re-coiling the ropes, gear handoffs, setting abseils and generally being efficient. It’s even more important than climbing to be good at all of those things. No faff allowed.
Below: Paul starting Pitch 6 (Crux 5.10a)
The climbing wasnt hard at all (albeit I did fall off at the crux section of the 5.10a pitch), and it went pretty fast. As advertaised, the route was amazing. Every pitch had something different to offer and we both enjoyed the quality of the rock, the different styles of climbing required and general exposure and views of the surrounding areas.
We started climbing before 11am, went up 200m, abseiled 4 or 5 times, and were walking off at 3.20pm – so pretty good time! The descent is simple (except of the last part where it makes sense to abb left to the bolts at 25m, rather than abb off some bushes/trees).
Below: Obligatory 'summit' photo (there was no summit, climb ends at pitch7).
By the time we got to the 2nd car park, as predicted C&C were already gone. The walk from the base of the climb to the first car park (where our car was) was 90 mins.) As predicted by the weather people the rain started at around 4pm, but we didnt get wet at all. It all stayed in the mountains.
Below: Last abseil – Fred Becky style. (not mandatory, this will take you from the base of the climb to the path – it can be downlimbed as well).
This however means that there is no climbing in Red Rock for the next 24h – The local rules call for no climbing on sandstone after rain – this is because the rock is so soft, that climbing after rain ruins it completely.
Below: The incredible rain clouds of over Red Rock.
There are limestone alternatives nearby, something we will have to check out for our last full day.
While we were battling the 7 pitches of our route, Calvin and Clare Climbed a good one too. They did 3 pitches of Arrow Place. A very intersting 5.9
Below: C&C enjoying each other's company on Arrow Place.
On Friday I’m flying out home (via Philadephia), Calvin and Clare are driving to Joshua Tree for another 10 or so days, and Paul stays till Sunday (when he flies back to Dub via NY). He wont be lonely though as another friend from California will visit him to keep him company.