Black Velvet Canyon (Red Rock, Nevada)
The Moon and Epinephrine
My legs tremble with each agonizing second I stay pinned in this uncomfortable position. Who knew how much technique climbing chimneys would actually require? Not me, obviously. The pain was beginning to become overwhelming. I glanced between my legs to my over-weight backpack dangling from my harness. "TAKE!!" I couldn't hold stiff any longer. I bounced in the chimney like a ragdoll from side to side catching my chin on a crimp I had clinched only minutes earlier. Fifteen feet of falling in a chimney felt like a lifetime. Finding the courage to continue "Epinephrine" was an absolute struggle.
Sin to Win
Our first trip to the amazing sandstone paradise known as Red Rock, Nevada was a trip very few are fortunate enough to experience. It was a better to drive to Las Vegas, to save a bit of duckets on room and food. We departed from Fort Collins, CO around 9 pm due to work and hardcore procastinating on our packing situation, nevertheless, we arrived in traffic filled hot as fuck Las Vegas around 8 am the next day, tired and bitchy. Our first order of business was to find a good place to sleep inside the city, lucky for us Sin City is filled with empty parking garages. The Cosmopolitan was a perfect fit for us as it provided us with privacy and plenty of space to rack our gear for our upcoming accent. One piece of solid advice I would consider, if you are planning to do the same, is to find a parking garage above ground because the Cosmo parking garage was underground and hotter than the fucking sun. Good thing for unlimited complimentary drinks while you gamble, otherwise sleeping would have been super weak.
After a couple days of lost memories and terrible, terrible decisions, we decided it was time to get back in touch with nature, so we picked up what was left of our morals and headed west. If you've never been to Black Velvet Canyon in Red Rock, you are really missing out. This bad ass place is mostly secluded and takes more time to drive the dirt road than one would expect. The parking lot for Epi is large, and although you aren't supposed to sleep here, it's rarely checked which is perfect for a dirt bag climber looking for a place to cash out.
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The only information we received about Epi was that from Mountain Project, being a pretty advanced sport climber I wasn't worried about a classic 5.9. I should have known this climb was about to be difficult, considering our unorganized attempt at the approach. I completely regret not finding Epi the day before our endeavor, our quick look at the guide book for this climb had not mentioned anything about how confusing the approach actually is. "Fucking finally, I think I can see the start." An hour and a half later we could see pitch numero uno. Instead of roping up and starting the climb like a normal accent we decided to free solo about 50 feet of the first pitch to a gigantic ledge and begin there. We were under the impression doing this short free solo would help with the amount of time we lost on our approach. What a mistake! Too much gear made the free solo an epic close call experience I would not recommend. 9:00am We tied into the sharp end and began what was our biggest free ascent ever.
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Emily scrambled up what would have been the last half of the first pitch. She set the tempo with a very quick ascent and made a snappy transition into belay mode. I ran by her collecting all the gear I thought I may need for the next pitch; I grabbed way too much considering I only set one piece. She very quickly caught up with me at the top of what I considered to be pitch 2. The looming chimneys stared upon me as if they knew my lack of experience with chimneys. "Alright Emily, you ready to tackle the first chimney?" Emily looked at me with pride and confidence, "Fuck you! You lead this one". I burst into laughter as I started organizing gear for my first chimney attempt ever. Feeling amazing I ran into the chimney thinking this is going to be such an easy ascent, I started with no problems at the hand crack leading to the chimney. Then I was quickly overcome with doubt as I started trembling from being stuck in one position.Fear is an amazing thing, fear can happen in an instant without much warning or any way to subdue it. The fear of being so high above my last cam, The fear of having zero gas to inch my way up, the fear of the weight of my backpack slowly tearing my feet from the wall as it dangles from my harness. This amount of fear totally sucked balls. My only saving grace for the first chimney pitch was the deep crack that ran between the walls that surrounded me. Slowly creeping up this crack/chimney thing I noticed something amazing ahead, I could see the bolts set for the end of this pitch. I did a large "beached whale" to gain the bolts. "WHOO HOO, fuck that climb!" I shouted to Emily. I could see a worried look on her face as she knew I was a stronger climber and had struggled tremendously. "Fuck it! Here goes nothing." Emily said, her determination apparent. Feeling comfortable due to the security of being on top rope, she was able to send the chimney in less than half the time it took me.
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Looking up at the next pitch I could see it was much wider and seemed like a grade easier than the last. Again, with little knowledge of chimneys, I started this pitch with the completely wrong technique. I plugged one cam, took, and sat. I began to ask myself, "why is this draining me so quickly?". Worried about what time it might be, I collected myself pushing forward once again. Shortly after, I found myself stuck in a straight legged position and the chimney was becoming wider. The pain was beginning to become overwhelming as I glanced between my legs at my over-weight backpack dangling from my harness. "TAKE!!" I couldn't hold stiff any longer. I bounced in the chimney like a ragdoll from side to side catching my chin on a crimp I had clinched only minutes earlier. Fifteen feet of falling in a chimney felt like a lifetime. Finding the courage to continue Epinephrine was an absolute struggle. Then, like some weird sign from God or whatever, a free soloist shouted from below asking if it was okay to pass. "Yea, man come on up" I muffled back, like a machine he started climbing with perfect execution. He stopped next to me very calm and collected, "Hey man, I think you could use some pointers! First, always have your back to the incline and your legs to the opposite side, this way gravity is on your side. You'll feel much more comfortable. Second, don't stay next to the inside crack, the chimney has a large variety of sizes and that side too wide for a person of your size". Wow, I thought to myself, this mother fucker is chilling here, no rope, no harness, and no water, and I'm clinging onto all my gear fearing for my life. "Neat man," choosing words from my 1st grade vocabulary "Thanks so much for taking time to help me succeed.", He looked over from above me, "Fuck yea now have fun!". "Fun.. ha", I smirked back to him, still struggling. Although he gave me some very valuable pointers I was unable to fully utilize them since I had spooked myself from the ugly fall. Eventually I had crept up enough to gain the next set of bolts, I was finished. Emily wasn't having very much luck either, I could hear very loud "fucks" and "shits" echoing through the chimney.
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When Emily arrived at the bivy spot I was belaying at we both sat in disbelief, this climb was kicking our asses and the time was against us. We collectively decided it was time to turn back, drained and hurting from my fall I was very let down to accomplish the hardest pitches just to turn back. Unable to reach the ground from the bolts placed in the rock we had to fashion our own. Leaving behind slings was another hit to my already bruised ego. Landing on the ground I was very relieved since the last rappel was just a sling slung around a freestanding rock that wasn't much larger then a gym exercise ball. Already dark we finally began our treck back to our auto, thinking we were in the clear. Another mistake that was as we needed to rappel one more time to get around a chockstone block. Breaking out all of gear once more for a 40 foot rappel was super weak, and to my unfortunate surprise at the bottom of this chock stone was a large puddle. Of course our rope landed directly in it. No biggie though I was on the ground and happy. As i dropped into the bitter cold water I was laughing at myself and all that has gone wrong during this day trip. We lost our way a few more times headed to the parking lot and almost made a very bad wrong turn, but we eventually made it!
Emily getting down on a "protein shake"