Out of the two weeks I spent in Red Rock this spring four of the first five days were spent in Black Velvet Canyon. I wanted to splurge and indulge in all of the routes I’d been reading about looking at pictures of and dreaming about.
On the wall to the right of Epinephrine lies a plethora of face and crack routes that range from 8 to 20 pitches. These include Texas Hold’em, Tri Tip, Texas Tower Direct, Velvet Tongue, Yellow Rose of Texas and Lone Star. I think some of the pitches on these routes and the combinations there of are some of the best climbing I’ve done in Red Rocks. They might rival the Rainbow wall if there was a more defining feature on the Velvet Wall.
By climbing for so many days on this wall I’ve come up with a favorite linkup that I climbed with Vitality on the first day of our trip together. We started up Texas Tower Direct which after two rambling pitches delivers the goods in spades. The third pitch tackles an undulating wall of perfect varnish with just enough crimps and features to make it possible. For me, at 5’ 8”, the crux is an outrageous reach just past the midway rappelling anchor. I managed to levitate just for a second and grunt my way to success.
The next pitch is a devious V7 traverse that I barely understand how to do. It’s a point of conflict to A0 this section but you only skip 10 feet of climbing. We took the right variant of the next pitch to keep the grade down. I’ve heard this called Texas Tower Lite, which seems fitting since we A0’ed the boulder problem. Another great pitch leads to the second crux pitch which brings you all the way up to Texas Tower and the start of Texas Hold’em. To keep the grade at 12a and avoid another A0 section we took the left start for Hold’em which brings you to the base of the flare in two short pitches (10a, 11c). Vitaliy skillfully dispatched the flares and made quick work of the boulder problem with the beta from my previous ascent.
The next pitch is an outrageous handcrack and brings you over a roof. From this point you can rappel with a 70m rope and that’s what I would advise. It’s possible to continue up Lone Star but I would say the climbing above is good, but nowhere as high quality as Texas Tower Direct or Texas Hold’em.
Despite what it says elsewhere online you don’t really need to attach your tag line on the last pitch. I was easily able to swing back over. But if have a tag line you might as well. It’s over 60m from the base of the flare to texas tower. We were able to get down with a 65m lead line our 60m tag line and some extension shenanigans. From here you easily rappel down the Velvet Tongue with a 70m rope. The 2nd to last rappel is a full 70m and just barely reaches! The next rap is more like 40m but you can downclimb pretty easily.
Of all of the routes I climbed in Red Rocks, Tri-Tip was the most full value. It pushed my mental limits and in the end I had to defer one of the leads to my partner, since I was unwilling to commit over the small gear, which was hard for me to trust in sandstone.
I would stay that Tri Tip is a 5.11 route for the 5.12 climber. The pitches are tricky to decipher, have small and intricate gear and feel quite hard on the onsight go. We climbed the route by starting on Yellow Rose of texas which as a viscous four bolt slab. This section seems to be tricky for shorter folks but is well protected if you peel. Getting down is pretty straightforward with two ropes. You rap back to the left and descend via the anchors on Texas Tower Direct.
The most stunning difficult climbing on the wall was on The Velvet Tongue. There is a reason that it is well represented by photographs in the guide book. The pitches are nails hard, require bizarre and intricate beta and power to waste. I’m sure to go back and try it again. It seems to be more reasonable than the 5.12+ sections on Texas Tower Direct.
Overall I would recommend all of these routes to anyone! The Texas Tower Lite to Texas Hold’em linkup being the best that I saw.