We just got back from the Owens River Gorge and are spending two weeks at Red Rocks for the second time this spring. On the first day of this second stop, we climb "Triassic Sands" on Whiskey Peak in Black Velvet Canyon.

We get an early start to avoid the heat of the day and leave the trailhead shortly before 7AM. This time, instead of hiking up toward Frogland, then traversing along the base of the cliff, we try the other option: hike further up the drainage toward the Black Velvet Wall then follow a trail that climbs steeply, straight toward the base of "Wholesome Fullback", just a few tens of feet right of the start of Triassic Sands (this is the approach described in the guidebook). This turns out quick and easy; we reach the base of the climb in 35 minutes. It's early morning but it is already hot so we wait at the base for the climb to go in the shade.

I take the first pitch. It follows a wide crack for about 40' to a ledge. I'm initially worried about protection - we did not bring any large pieces - but I'm able to find small placements for aliens in horizontal cracks on both sides of the main crack. Besides, the climbing is easy and enjoyable on small face holds next to the crack. I set up a belay on the ledge and bring Eric up.

He takes the next pitch. Having done the route before, he remembers almost falling off the crux move on this pitch so he's not so relaxed. The crux is almost right off the belay - a left leaning off-finger crack through a small ceiling. This time, he takes time to carefully protect the crux with two small (green) aliens before committing. The moves go easily, despite a bit of apprehension (he's never been too fond of repeating routes and usually climbs more confidently on-sight). Above the crux, the crack widens to hand then fist size. Exhilarating, positive jamming and face holds for a loooong way up! Just the type of climbing Eric loves. He quickly finishes the pitch, running it out a bit since he does not have that many 3" pieces.

I get to lead the sweet third pitch, a great hand crack with lots of face holds for rest. Half-way up, I traverse to the left-hand crack which offers the best line up to the belay (the other option is to continue up the original crack to the right). More fun crack climbing and I'm at the bolted belay on a comfortable ledge. This pitch is about 150'.

Most people rap from here (the top of the third pitch) but the next pitch should not be missed. Besides, there is now a fixed anchor at the top of the 4th pitch, so there's really no reason not to climb it.

This pitch follows a beautiful 5.10 orange corner - very Indian-Creek-like. Eric's lead. The move to surmount the infamous thin flake is not trivial but easier than the 2nd pitch crux. A manky bolt protects the move. The flake is a bit loose and flexible but it has apparently been like this since the first ascent so I guess it's all right. Be careful also with loose blocks lodged in the crack above the flake. The rest of the pitch involves liebacking and jamming in smooth corners with good pro.

Not knowing that there would be a new fixed anchor at the top of the 4th pitch (it wasn't there when we first climbed the route in 1997), we had decided to go all the way up. I lead the last two pitches. There is no real description in the book so I follow a series of discontinuous corners. The 5th pitch goes up a fun dihedral but then follows an indistinct line on not-so-good rock - I'd say it's about 5.7. I traverse left to avoid another dihedral that looks like about 5.10, and belay on a ledge at the end of the rope. The last pitch is easier (low fifth class). I follow a ramp on white rock with a couple of suspect holds and belay on a ledge. These last two pitches are nothing special. Were we to do this route again, we would rap from the top of the fourth pitch. The last two pitches are not worth the descent, as short and convenient as it may be.

After spending a while at the top of the buttress watching several parties make their way up the Black Velvet Wall, we drop down into the back gully, joining the Frogland descent, and contour left back to the base.

We're back at the car early so we stop by the library in Blue Diamond to borrow a couple of free DVD's - it's part of our RR ritual now. We also check our e-mail and chat with the librarian. She gives us the latest news on the threat of residential development on the Blue Diamond hill. The prospect of this development makes us sick. Fortunately, strong opposition to the project by Blue Diamond and Las Vegas residents (with minor involvement by the Access Fund) has apparently stalled the developer... for now. There will likely be more attempts in the future. Check www.redrock.org for more about that.

Back at the bus, we're preparing the gear for the next day when a couple of friends from Los Alamos drop by! They did not know we were here but recognized the bus as soon as they drove into camp (it's rather hard to miss, I guess...). We talk for a while but since we're climbing again tomorrow, we go to bed early.

Triassic Sands, Red Rocks, NV

May 6, 2004 / 5.10c, 6 pitches
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Triassic Sands follows a beautiful crack on Whiskey Peak (route shown in red).
 
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On the approach, at the mouth of Black Velvet Canyon.
 
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Lucie leading the first pitch (5.7).
 
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Eric placing gear as high as possible to protect the crux on the second pitch (5.10c).
 
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Ready to go.
 
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Pulling the crux on the second pitch.
 
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Lucie starting the sweet hand crack of pitch 3 (5.8).
 
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Higher on the second pitch.
 
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Traversing a bit to follow the left-hand crack (going right is also an option).
 
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Eric starting the 4th pitch (5.10).
 
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Carefully stepping on the flexible flake...
 
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Taking a break just above the move.
 
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The beautiful orange corner of the 4th pitch (Eric is at the bolted belay). Note the scary triangular flake.
 
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Lucie starting the easy and less traveled 5th pitch (5.7?).
 
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Party on the 4th pitch of "Dream of Wild Turkeys" on the amazing Black Velvet Wall.
 
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Hiking back to the car.
(high res. images are about 300KB)