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RED ROCKS Sept 2014
Climb 1: Triassic Sands (5.10b, 5p, 730')
Climb 2: Climbing with Uriostes

TR #: 177

Category: Nevada       Elev: 4,000-6,000 ft       Rock Type: Aztec Sandstone

Partners: Dow Williams (Climbs 1 & 2) / Joanne Urioste & Kenny Rathcke (Climb 2)

A short and special trip to Red Rocks.


Dow is good friends with Jorge and Joanne Urioste, who put up several of the classic routes in Red Rocks in the 70's, scoping the canyons for long and beautiful lines. Perhaps their most well-known route is the grade IV, 1600', 5.9 Epinephrinewhich has become THE classic Red Rocks route—I still remember the sustained 600-ft chimney when I climbed Epinephrine on my first trip to Red Rocks in 2007. (When I asked Joanne how the route got its name, she told me that while working on the route, Jorge had had an allergic reaction to something on the route and had to go to the hospital to get a shot of epinephrine.) If you skim any short list of must-do Red Rocks classics, you will notice that about half of the routes are Jorge and Joanne's—Cat in the Hat (5.6, 6p), Olive Oil (5.7, 7p), Frogland (5.8, 6p), Crimson Chrysalis (5.8+, 9p), Refried Brains (5.9, 4p), Epinephrine (5.9, 13p), Black Orpheus (5.9+, 8p), Sour Mash (5.10a, 6p), Dream of Wild Turkeys (5.10a, 7p), The Nightcrawler (5.10b, 5p), Gift of the Wind Gods (5.10, 10p), Levitation 29 (5.11, 9p), Woman of Mountain Dreams (5.11a/b, 17p), Ixtlan (5.11c, 3p), and many many more. (Great route names by the way!) 

Anyway, Dow thought I would enjoy meeting Jorge and Joanne. Jorge and Joanne live on the outskirts of Las Vegas (the Red Rocks side of course). Joanne was eager to get out for a day of climbing on the upcoming weekend. So Dow and I made a quick two-day trip to Red Rocks. The plan was that Dow and I would climb a route on Friday (Sept 5), visit and stay with Jorge and Joanne that evening, and climb with Joanne on Saturday (Sept 6).

So on Friday, Dow and I drove two hours to Red Rocks and climbed Triassic Sands (5.10b, 730', 5p). Dow had climbed this route several times before, but it was one of his favorites of the grade, and also completely shaded, a must on a day where temperatures were pushing the triple digits in Vegas (fortunately, the climbing temps in the canyon were comfortable, at least in the shade). Indeed, Triassic Sands was superb climbing up an elegant crack system rimmed with varnished sandstone jugs. My only complaint is that the route is too short—I wanted about three times as much of it, it was so good! After climbing Triassic Sands, Dow and I arrived sweat- and dirt-covered at Jorge and Joanne's doorstep, where we were invited right in and enjoyed an evening of dinner and interesting conversation. Jorge and Joanne are really cool people and have a lifetime of great stories to tell. The next day, Dow and I climbed with Joanne and her friend Kenny Rathcke in Red Rocks; we helped them put up a few more pitches on a new route the Uriostes were working on in Black Velvet Canyon (a couple of months later, they completed this new 2100 foot climb). It was a really fun day in great company doing some adventurous climbing with a lady who knows Red Rocks about as well anyone. Although he did not climb with us on this day, Jorge still climbs too. Jorge and Joanne are truly inspirational, and it was a gift to get to meet them.

This page gives a trip report for Triassic Sands, as well as a few photos from our time with the Uriostes.

UPDATE: About 6 months later, in March 2015, I made a blitz three-day trip to Red Rocks to climb with Dow. I stayed with the Uriostes, and Dow and I spent a day climbing in Black Velvet Canyon with both Jorge and Joanne. (Click here for the trip report.) This was definitely a climbing trip I will never forget.

Sept 5
Triassic Sands
(5.10b, 730', 5p)
(on Ixtlan Buttress on Whiskey Peak at the head of Black Velvet Canyon)

• This long, elegant crack system is one of Red Rocks' oldest and most classic routes. It was the first “real” rock climb of significant length at Red Rocks. It was originally climbed as an aid route in 1972 by Joe Herbst and Larry Hamilton, as a warm-up for the Salathé Wall. Along with Jorge and Joanne, Joe and Larry were two of the most productive early Red Rocks climbers, and together accounted for a number of serious routes including both the Rainbow Wall and the Aeolian Wall (in fact, Joe had been along with Jorge and Joanne when they put up Epinephrine in 1978). The first free ascent of Triassic Sands was in 1979, again by Joe Herbst (and others). Apparently, this route is most often done by climbing the first three pitches and then rappelling. However, this misses out on the excellent fourth pitch (which you can also rappel from) and tagging the "summit" if you continue even higher. I like to get to the top of things, so Dow and I went all the way to the top. From there, the descent is an easy walk-off. The route is north-facing, so it is a good choice for a hot day. The climb is mostly 5.7-5.9 climbing, with just a couple 5.10ish moves. My only complaint about this route is that it is too short—if Pitches 1-4 were repeated and stacked on top of each other about three times, then this would be one of the best climbs of its grade in North America. 
10:15 - leave parking lot
10:55 - base of route 
11:20 - start climbing
2:17 - top 
2:55 - back to packs at base of route
3:50 - parking lot
~ 40 min approach, ~3 h climb, ~40 min decent, ~5.5 hours rt
Photo descriptions:
a. Triassic Sands is located at the head of Black Velvet Canyon. The trailhead is accessed by about 20 minutes of driving along a rough yet 2WD dirt road.
b. Beginning the hike toward Black Velvet Canyon. Triassic Sands is on Whiskey Peak on the left side of the canyon. The approach took about 40 minutes.
c. Looking up Pitch 1, which is a short (50') 4" crack. A large cam is nice to have here, but if you look around, there are places where smaller protection can be plugged in too.
d. Dow leading off Pitch 2. The start of this pitch (an excellent finger crack and a roof) is the 10b crux of the route. 
e. Looking up the start of Pitch 2 from below. This section is the crux of the route.
f. Looking up the second half of Pitch 2. This is what you brought all the #2 cams for.
g. The view up Black Velvet Canyon.
h. Looking down while leading Pitch 3. This stellar pitch climbs a sustained 5.8 hand/fist crack. There are features on the face too so holds abound. Note the bolt on the right side of the crack—this bolt seems a bit out of place next to such a protectable crack, but perhaps it was used at one point to rappel this pitch with a single rope.
i. Dow nearing the top of Pitch 3.
j. There are bolted anchors at the tops of Pitches 2, 3, and 4.
k. Dow leading off Pitch 4. This pitch pulls past a roof and climbs up a beautiful wavy corner. Apparently many climbers rappel after the third pitch, but I'm not sure why since this pitch is great. The big "don't pull on" flake that is mentioned in various trip reports is just below Dow on the left. We stood on this flake, but only after the bolt just above the flake had been clipped.
l. A bolt just above the flake and roof on Pitch 4. 
m. A different loose block at the base of Pitch 4.
n. Looking up the handcrack in the corner of Pitch 4. Why would you rap after Pitch 3 if you could climb this on the next pitch?!
o. Pitch 5 climbs up and slightly left following this crack/flake, and then continues up on low 5th to 4th terrain to the top. I had to set a belay shortly before the top due to rope drag.
p. Summit view out towards Las Vegas.
q. Vegas.
r. The descent involves a 3rd class scramble down (heading south towards the trailhead) a gully. There are cairns and a climbers' trail.
s. I've only had these shoes 6 weeks and the toe is already breaking through. It's not like I've been doing any climbing....

Sept 6
Climbing with and staying with the Uriostes

• The Uriostes are really great people and I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know them a little.
Photo descriptions:
a. Joanne getting ready to climb. She's 62 and climbs 5.10+. I've never met a more gung-ho and adventurous 62-year-old woman than Joanne. Except maybe my mom.
b. Kenny Rathcke, who joined us for the day. It turns out I had met Kenny the previous summer when climbing the Incredible Hulk. Really nice guy.
c. We spotted a tick.
d. I also spotted a tiny red-spotted toad hopping around on the canyon floor.
e. Such great climbing at Red Rocks. This photo was taken when I joined Joanne and Kenny and Dow to put up a few new pitches on a new route that the Uriostes were working on in Black Velvet Canyon. The Uriostes completed this 2100 ft route a couple of months later.
f. The great sandstone cliffs at Red Rock are made up of the Aztec Sandstone. This formation, about 180 – 190 million years old, is comprised of lithified sand dunes that formed in a vast desert that covered a large part of the southwestern United States during the Jurassic time. The massive cross-bedding is a result of the shifting wind direction across the Jurassic dune field.
g. Jorge and Pepper. Jorge was a professor at UNLV for several years. I imagine he was a favorite professor for many students. He's 78 and he still climbs too.
h. Jorge and Joanne's son Danny. Like his parents, he's a climber and a really fun person.