Yellow Brick Road, Black Velvet Canyon 5.10b
Avg time to climb route: 3-5 hours
Approach time: 45 minutes
Descent time: 1.5-2 hours
Number of pitches: 10
Height of route: 1200'
OverviewYellow Brick Road is a two-pitch direct variation to Dream of Wild Turkeys. It is slightly harder, more sustained, and it avoids the hardest slabby cruxes and a long easy crack, and thus is an excellent variation for those climbing at the grade.
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HistoryBy the time the Uriostes, with Mike Ward and Bill Bradley, began this route in the spring of 1985, they were experienced in leading long, bolt-protected first ascents. One challenge was simply having the hardware to adequately protect the routes. Doubts were already beginning to surface about the security of the 1/4” bolts that climbers had been relying on for anchors. Mike had a bad experience at about this time on Zodiac in Yosemite. The first move of that route was a hook leading to a 1/4” aid bolt. As soon as he weighted the bolt, it snapped, dropping him twenty feet to the ground. They continued and finished the route, but the experience was educational.
In order to retain some level of safety on their Red Rocks routes, they attempted to place a sufficient number of bolts to preserve a reasonable redundancy of anchors. This required many bolts and hangers. To satisfy their hardware needs, a small production line was set up in George’s garage. The hangers were cut from pieces of angle iron originally intended as bed frames. They were cut, drilled (two different hole sizes), deburred, carabiner hole beveled, and painted. Many a Friday night was spent in the little factory, creating the supplies for the weekend’s pitches.
One unusual item they fabricated for this route was the “trail sign” plaque marking the fork where Yellow Brick Road deviates from Dream of Wild Turkeys. Joanne writes, “The sign was done with mischievous intent (i.e. bolts were “bad,” so a sign must be “badder”). I forget whose idea it was (maybe mine!).”
– Larry DeAngelo
StrategyThe crack climbing on the first pitch (after Dream of Wild Turkeys breaks straight right) is an outstanding finger crack, and it is a highly recommended variation. It also cuts one pitch off the overall climb (unless the link variation is used when climbing Dream of Wild Turkeys).
RetreatIt’s possible to rappel from anywhere on the route with two 50m or 60m ropes.
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.
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