Santa Ain’t Up This Chimney

Red Rocks, NV – Epinephrine and Black Orpheus. Jump to  Things to Know │ Route Beta Photos What better way to rebound from a trip to Joshua Tree NP than a trip to Red Rocks? I have a pretty extensive tick list for Red Rocks and an awesome climbing partner that is up for anything. I was pretty amped [...]

Red Rocks, NV – Epinephrine and Black Orpheus.

Jump to  Things to Know │ Route Beta Photos

What better way to rebound from a trip to Joshua Tree NP than a trip to Red Rocks? I have a pretty extensive tick list for Red Rocks and an awesome climbing partner that is up for anything. I was pretty amped on doing Black Orpheus (5.9+), so it was only fair that I let my climbing partner pick the other route seeing that we had a two day allotment for this vertical adventure. He picked Epinephrine (5.9), a route renowned for its relentless chimneys. The chimney “love” I experienced on Iron Messiah in Zion NP was a little too recent in my memory banks to agree to this uber classic Red Rocks route without a lot of arm twisting. After an internal struggle mirroring a civil war of sorts I agreed to climb my arch nemesis, Epinephrine, on day one and Black Orpheus on day two.

Last minute a pair of our friends joined us, thus doubling our climbing party and pushing our arrival time in Vegas to the wee hours of the morning.  Waking up a bit later than prudent, (ridiculously late for a class IV climb), the first pair of our two climbing pairs started up Epinephrine (jump to beta photo), with the second following shortly after.


P2 of Epinephrine


P5 of Epinephrine

Here is how the pitches went (all descriptions of pitches are with respect to Rock Climbing Red Rocks, 3rd by Todd Swain):

  • Linked P1 and P2
  • Linked P3 and P4 – enjoyed the warm-up 5.6 chimney
  • P5
  • Linked P6 and P7 – made for an epic thrash-fest up some beautiful 5.9 chimneys. Go David and Andrew for this lead!
  • P8 – super short pitch just to gain the top of the Black Tower
  • P9 – P18 – Womp Womp. Looks like we will have to come back. Damn you winter days!

Girls Rock! Black Tower on Epinephrine.

Yup, that’s right. We made the decision to bail from atop the Black Tower. We topped out P8 at 2:30pm and the second half of our team at 3:30pm, meaning we had about an hour of sunlight to complete the remaining 8 pitches of Epinephrine and figure out that reportedly complicated descent. We unanimously decided to avoid an epic and took advantage of our combined two ropes to rap the route (we would have climbed until dark, but our topo showed no fixed gear until P12 making a rap descent a lot more expensive if we carried on). Slightly bummed that we didn’t top out on Epinephrine, we reached the car by 7pm and saw the headlamps of the climbing party that was a few pitches ahead of us just reach the summit – boy do I hope they knew that descent well.  Our slated emotions were quickly fixed with a gluttonous fest at BJ’s. As much as it royally sucks to not complete a route, we made the right decision and got to bed fairly early for tackling Black Orpheus the next day.

Black Orpheus turned out to be a real test of route finding ability. The approach was a bit tricky and time consuming (thank you cairn for marking the turnoff out of the creek up the slabs), but we eventually arrived at the base of Black Orpheus just shy of 10:30am (jump to beta photo). We quickly racked up and knocked out the first 6 pitches (once again route is described according to topo from  Rock Climbing Red Rocks, 3rd by Todd Swain), landing us at the base of the money pitches in three hours.

P7 might have been my favorite, starting with a short traverse off the anchor into a super fun dihedral.  I am pretty sure I smiled all 150+ feet. P8 was allegedly the crux (5.9+) and involved some face climbing protected by two bolts leading into another awesome crack, Supertopo upgraded the crux to 10a but this rating seems somewhat dubious – if you are 5’8″ or taller I doubt it is harder than 5.9. P9 was probably the most exciting 5.7 pitch I have done – a perfect lieback up a left-facing corner and then a graceful face climbing exit to bolted anchors. In my opinion, this pitch was a pretty stiff 5.7. The grand finale was a fantastic 5.5 face climb, which in the dark seemed to have rather generously spaced bolts.

Atop the summit blocks of Black Orpheus we exchanged egregious smiles among the four of us. The Upper Painted Bowl descent (having a topo of its own) involved two beautiful double rope rappels, the second of which was overhung and reminiscent of remote canyoneering excursions, followed by some meandering down slabs. With only a few wrong turns amid an incoming storm showering us with intermittent snow flurries and face chapping wind gusts, we made it back to the car – hungry and tired, but oh so excited. Black Orpheus did not disappoint.

Shenanigans on Upper Painted Bowl Descent

Shenanigans on Upper Painted Bowl Descent

Things to Know

  • Access: Black Orpheus is accessed from the scenic loop road which requires a daily car entry fee of $7 if you don’t have the $80/year Interagency Pass. All climbs accessed via the scenic loop road must adhere to the following hours:
    Nov – Feb – 6 AM to 5 PM
    March – 6 AM to 7 PM
    Apr – Sep – 6 AM to 8 PM
    Oct – 6 AM to 7 PM
  • Camping: There is one campground on BLM land about two miles from the scenic loop road, camping here is $15/night.
  • Recommended Guidebook: Red Rocks Climbing: Supertopos by Greg Barnes. Supertopo offers a free route topo of Black Orpheus here.
  • Water: It’s a desert, bring water. It is easy to become dehydrated which leads to cloudy decision making, which is no es bueno.

Route Beta Photos

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Ilana is a native of Southern California. She is an accomplished rock and ice climber and is the brains behind Thrillseekers Anonymous. Currently residing in Colorado, she is a Registered Trauma Emergency Department Nurse, who can be found leading her own adventures on days off. Ilana is an athlete ambassador with GoMacro, Arcteryx Denver, and CAMP USA. She is a seasoned presenter and has been featured in various media outlets including the February 2015 issue of ‘Climbing’ magazine, December 2013 issue of ‘Rock and Ice’ magazine, December/January 2013 issue of ‘Gripped Climbing’ magazine, Canyoneering: A Guide to Techniques for Wet and Dry Canyons (How To Climb Series) by Dave Black and Pasadena Magazine as well as a Climbing Expert on MTV’s Parental Control (Season 7 – “Heather”).

Ilana has written 111 articles for Thrillseekers Anonymous.

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