Dream of Wild Turkeys, Black Velvet Canyon 5.10a
Red Rocks, Nevada USA
Avg time to climb route: 3-5 hours
Approach time: 45 minutes
Descent time: 1.5-2 hours
Number of pitches: 11
Height of route: 1200'
OverviewLong and sustained, Dream of Wild Turkeys tackles discontinuous features for over 1000 feet of amazing climbing with nearly every pitch 5.9 or 5.10a. The first route up the main Black Velvet Wall, Dream of Wild Turkeys is the classic mostly face route of the grade in Red Rocks. All of the surrounding routes covered in the Supertopo guide can be seen as variations on this route.
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HistoryThe first ascent of Dream of Wild Turkeys was completed by George and Joanne Urioste in June 1980. This route tackled the central, smooth part of the Velvet Wall. Their original expectation was that there would be a significant amount of direct aid, so they set off on the climb with haulbags, planning for a big-wall type of effort. Serendipity intervened. The wall was not really smooth. The numerous little flakes and nubbins quickly destroyed their haulbags, but also provided the means for free climbing.
They realized that free climbing the face between natural features would require a major bolting effort. This climb therefore became the next step in the “route construction” philosophy they had originated with the ascent of Epinephrine, and refined on Eagle Dance. Though these routes are widely climbed and enjoyed today, they were the source of local controversy at the time of the first ascent.
The prevailing ethic at the time valued an ascent starting from ground to summit in one push, with great efforts taken to avoid placement of bolts or pitons that scar the rock. The strength of many climbers’ conviction is evident from the fact that on some occasions they literally risked their lives to avoid placing a bolt, and frequently backed off or declined lines that could not be climbed with natural (and clean) protection. Such climbers were outraged that the Uriostes would fix ropes and heavily bolt their way up “blank” faces. (It should be noted that by current standards, the Uriostes were very conservative, placing all bolts on lead, by hand and hammer, and usually finishing their routes on summits.)
With that as background we must turn to North Wales, where Ed Drummond and Dave Pearce climbed A Dream of White Horses in 1968. Royal Robbins wrote an article about it in the 1975 book Hard Rock. He opened, “A Dream of White Horses—one of the great names, fulfilling Geoffrey Dutton’s dictum that a name should tell you something about the climb or the way it was done. One glance at Leo Dickinson’s masterful photograph explains it: that great sheet of spray leaping from the sea, rearing from excited waters like a splendid white stallion, and two figures fastened to the rock just out of reach of the tormented foam...” Because the Uriostes were approaching their routes in a manner that was out of step with the contemporary values, they were generally shunned and disrespected by much of the growing Las Vegas climbing community. And that’s what the name says about how the route was done: though ostracized and made to feel like “turkeys” they persisted with their dream and put up one of the classic lines at Red Rock.
– Larry DeAngelo
StrategyStart early because the route shares a first pitch with the even more popular Prince of Darkness. Quick parties can bypass slower parties by climbing The Gobbler, or if there are slow parties three to four pitches up, by climbing Yellow Brick Road. Prince of Darkness, Overhanging Hangover, and Sour Mash are all options as well, and since all these climbs require at most the rack you need for Dream of Wild Turkeys, you will already be prepared.
Thin, technical face climbing on incut edges is the hallmark of Red Rocks, and almost every crux on the Black Velvet Wall involves this sort of climbing. However, the slabby crux sections often stymie climbers, especially the 5.10a at the top of the crack on the fourth pitch. Most people rap after the seventh pitch (where Prince of Darkness ends), but the ninth pitch, a 5.9 bolted dihedral, is one of the finest on the route and should not be missed.
RetreatRappel from anywhere on the route, and due to the surrounding climbs, many options are available. Two ropes are required, and longer ropes give you more flexibility. Beware of the fourth pitch—it is much better to rappel down Yellow Brick Road, as the crack eats ropes with a vengeance. Likewise, if you rap down to The Gobbler, it is far better (and more fun!) to rap off the roof than down the chimney/crack system.
ApproachBlack Velvet Canyon is at the southern end of the escarpment and thus the approach road is not off the gated Loop Road, so you can start in the middle of the night if desired. The approach trail is straightforward until almost at Black Velvet Wall and takes about 45 minutes. Just before the wall, climb a 100-foot 4th class cliff to the left of the wash bottom. It is steep and some may want a toprope from an experienced leader.
The routes along the main wall all start from a huge brushy slope/ledge system. Prince of Darkness, Dream of Wild Turkeys, Yellow Brick Road and The Gobbler start about 60 feet left from the bottom left of the huge arch. Sour Mash climbs up to the right end of the gigantic roof. For Epinephrine, from the top of the 4th class, walk down back into the canyon bottom, then about 100 yards up the wash to a point below the right side of the huge tower (Black Tower). Look for bolts up the gray wall straight below the ominous chimney above. The left line of bolts is 5.8, and the bolts have all been replaced by the ASCA. The right line has bad bolts and crumbly rock. While this first 50 feet of 5.8 is fun, linking it to the next part of the pitch creates a lot of rope drag, and many parties skip it by ascending the unprotected 5.4 ramp to the right.
DescentFrom the base of Black Velvet Wall, retrace the approach trail. Some may wish to rappel the 4th class, or to have a more experienced climber downclimb the 4th class several times to ferry less experienced climber(s) pack(s) down the wall.
Dream of Wild Turkeys RappelYellow Brick Road and The Gobbler are variations of Dream of Wild Turkeys and use the same rappel. Almost everyone rappels from these climbs, and while SuperTopo includes upper pitches not included in other guides, we have not done the walk-off from the top. If you choose to walk off, be competent and prepared.
There are many rappel stations on the various routes, and your choice of rap route largely depends on climbers below. Since there are so many choices, we do not attempt to give all the possible rap lengths. Use knots or other backups to avoid rappelling off the end of your ropes!
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