Prince of Darkness, Black Velvet Canyon 5.10c
Avg time to climb route: 3-4 hours
Approach time: 45 minutes
Descent time: 1-1.5 hours
Number of pitches: 6
Height of route: 1200'
OverviewAmazingly sustained perfect edges up pitch after pitch of sport bolted face, Prince of Darkness is one of the most classic face climbs in the U.S. With nearly no moves easier than 5.8 or harder than 5.10a, and with no rest ledges, it is heaven for 5.10 climbers, as long as you bring a butt bag or a very comfortable harness. A few nut and thin cam placements are needed, but with up to 15 bolts per pitch, the rack mainly consists of a big pile of quickdraws.
Climber Beta on Prince of Darkness
Which SuperTopo guidebooks include a topo for Prince of Darkness?
Find other routes like Prince of Darkness
HistoryGeorge and Joanne Urioste, Mike Ward, and Bill Bradley climbed this route in July 1985. The noteworthy aspect of the enterprise was that Joanne was already a few months pregnant and was feeling the debilitating effects of morning sickness. Her challenges were compounded by a summer heat wave reaching 117 degrees.
The route name was chosen by Bill Bradley as an ironic twist on the local bolting controversies. Dissension had blossomed around the Uriostes’ bolting of Dream of Wild Turkeys. Following this, several members of the “adventure” contingent put up Rock Warrior (Richard Harrison, Jay Smith, Nick Nordblom) as their idea of what a Velvet Wall route should be. Unpersuaded, the Uriostes continued with the heavily bolted Yellow Brick Road and Prince of Darkness, which had even more bolts. The “Prince of Darkness” name referred to the satanic level of evil such bolting was supposed to represent. Naturally, the response was Sandstone Samurai (Paul Van Betten, Nick Nordblom), which had even less.
Amazingly, George was generally unaffected by the rustles of controversy. He had a vision of what a route should be, and he was willing to work quite hard to realize that vision. One of his primary guiding principles was the creation of a route that was elegant and “couth.” He looked for clean direct lines, secure and comfortable belays, safe levels of protection, and a lack of loose rock or vegetation. By George’s reckoning, Prince of Darkness succeeded on all these points. The only weakness that he noted was a lack of variety—move after move of steep thin face climbing with no change of pace.
As it happened, this was the last of the big face-climbing routes that the Uriostes did for a while (see notes of impending parenthood in first paragraph). And it was the last they did bolting by hand and hammer, the old-fashioned way.
– Larry DeAngelo
StrategyPrince of Darkness is basically a six-pitch sport climb and has the crowds to prove it—get there early. It’s always a good idea to bring additional gear to climb surrounding routes in case a slow party is ahead of you.
The 5.10b slab crux on the second pitch (first bolted pitch) is the crux of the climb for many people. The final pitch 5.10c crux involves thin lieback/crack moves past bolts. The moves into the crack on the crux pitch can be very difficult for shorter people.
RetreatYou can rap with two ropes from any pitch, and it is possible to rap to the left and down the classic runout route Rock Warriors at some spots (NEVER do this if anyone is on that route!). It’s also possible to rap to the right and down Yellow Brick Road, Dream of Wild Turkeys, and/or The Gobbler.
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.
Everything You Need to Know About Red Rocks
Search the internet for beta on Prince of Darkness
Other Routes on Black Velvet Canyon