RED ROCKS Spring Break 2015
Climb 1: A day climbing with Jorge & Joanne Urioste
Climb 2: The Yellow Rose of Texas (5.11, 8p, 700')
Climb 3: Dream of Wild Turkeys (5.10a, 7p, 700')
In 1974, a 22-year old free-spirited Brooklyn girl named Joanne and a 37-year-old Bolivian Jesuit linguist professor named Jorge arrived at Red Rocks. They started climbing. With a thirst for adventure and aesthetics, Jorge and Joanne Urioste scoped the unclimbed sandstone walls for long and beautiful lines. Calling themselves the "elves of route tinkering", the Uriostes strove to create routes for the masses, even if that meant placing bolts to link cracks — a technique then derided by many peers. The Uriostes went on to establish several of Red Rocks' most famous routes, including 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, 8p), and many many more.
In September 2014, I had the good fortune to be able to stay with the Uriostes and climb a day in Red Rocks with my partner Dow, Joanne Urioste, and her friend Kenny. Dow and I joined Joanne and Kenny in putting up a couple of new pitches on a new route Joanne was working on at the time (it has since been completed, 2100' in its entirety).
In March 2015, I squeezed in an unexpected three-day climbing trip to Red Rocks with Dow and the Uriostes (Jorge too this time!). The primary goal of the trip was to lug my SLR up a climb and photograph Jorge and Joanne — now ages 63 and 78 but as passionate about climbing, aesthetic lines, and each other as they ever have been — climbing on their new route in Black Velvet Canyon. We successfully executed this photoshoot on the first day. All four of us had a blast. The next two days, Dow and I stayed with the Uriostes and day-tripped into Red Rocks, climbing two 700 ft routes in Black Velvet Canyon: The Yellow Rose of Texas and Dream of Wild Turkeys.
Photo Top Right: Jorge (age 34) and Joanne (age 19) in 1971, shortly after they first met.
Photo Bottom Right: Jorge (age 78) and Joanne (age 63) in 2015, still as passionate about climbing, aesthetic lines, and each other as they ever have been.
This page gives a trip report for this memorable three-day trip climbing trip to Red Rocks.
DAY 1 - MARCH 21
A Day Climbing with Joanne and Jorge Urioste
The first day of my trip Dow and I climbed with Jorge and Joanne in Black Velvet Canyon. The mission was to capture some photos of Joanne and Jorge climbing on a route they were working on. Specifically, we wanted photos of Joanne leading the fifth pitch chimney with Jorge belaying below. Wanting to get in a bit of climbing action before the photoshoot, Dow and I started up the climb a few hours before Joanne and Jorge. We climbed to the top of Pitch 8, and then began rappelling when Joanne and Jorge were just starting up the fourth pitch. To get the photos we wanted, Dow lowered me from the top of the fifth pitch rap, and I was able to photograph Joanne from directly above and beside as she climbed. I had brought my SLR and both my wide angle (10-22mmx1.6) and zoom (24-105mmx1.6) lenses. The major challenge was the dim lighting of the chimney, but overall I was able to get some pretty good photographs of both Joanne and Jorge on the route. It was the first time I've had the opportunity to use my SLR on such a technical climb, and it was loads of fun. Not to mention that it was such a wonderful experience to get to climb with Jorge and Joanne Urioste. This was one of those special days in life that you never forget.
DAY 2 - MARCH 22
The Yellow Rose of Texas
(5.11, 8p, 700')
(on Black Velvet Wall in Black Velvet Canyon)
The second day of my trip Dow and I climbed The Yellow Rose of Texas (5.11, 670', 8 pitches). This route climbs to the top of Texas Tower, which is a large flake the shape of Texas to the right of Epinephrine. This route was put up by the Uriostes (along with Joe Herbst) in 1978, just weeks after the trio had completed their first full ascent of the famed Epinephrine. There is not a whole lot of beta for this route online and it gets minimal stars in the SuperTopo guide, but Dow and I found it to be a worthwhile climb. The climbing gets better and better as the route progressed upward, and Pitches 4-8 feature some really great climbing.
Click here to see Dow's excellent pitch-by-pitch route description for Yellow Rose of Texas on Summitpost.org.
a. The route description in most guidebooks says to climb a 5.10 crack above the pool in Black Velvet Canyon. This is the crack shown in the left in the photo. This crack is quite sandy and insecure and does not take good pro for the first half. Personally, I don't recommend climbing it....
b. Instead, a safer and more mellow alternative is to climb the 5.7ish chimney to the left of the pool. This is the corner system behind Dow in the photo.
c. Pitch 2 climbs a juggy 5.7 finger crack. Nothing incredibly notable about this pitch.
d. After a Pitch 3 bushwhack, Pitch 4 is where the better climbing on the route begins. Here, Dow is at the beginning of a 5.8 crack. Black rock is usually a sign of good climbing in Red Rocks.
e. The crux of the route is on Pitch 6. It is a well-bolted (4 bolts) 5.11 on smooth face.
f. Pitch 7 features a 5.9 off-width. In addition to a normal rack, we one each of #6, #5, and #4. We used them all on this pitch. Dow and I both enjoyed this pitch, but found it a bit stout for its grade, even considering that it is an off-width.
g. Looking down while climbing the #6-sized section of Pitch 7.
h. The route ends with a steep 5.9 corner, which was probably my favorite portion of climbing on the route. Dow strung together Pitches 7 and 8, but due to rope drag on this top pitch it is probably best to keep them as separate pitches.
i. To descend, we rappelled from the top of the tower. After a short (20ft) rappel to a rap anchor below, we made 5 rappels back to the ground. We rappelled on double ropes, but most of these rappels were about 25m and a single 70m would have worked with intermediate anchors.
j. The route has a great view of climbers on Epinephrine.
k. Indian Paintbrush on the hike out, an appropriate ending to our day climbing a route called "yellow rose".
DAY 3 - MARCH 23
Dream of Wild Turkeys
(5.10a, 7p, 700')
(on Black Velvet Wall in Black Velvet Canyon)
The third (and last) day of my trip Dow and I climbed Dream of Wild Turkeys (5.10a, 700', 7 pitches). This route connects superb cracks and corners with sections of spectacular face climbing. It is one of the more popular routes in Red Rocks. This route was (no surprise) also put up by Jorge and Joanne Urioste, in 1980.
History of the route name: At the dinner table the night of the climb, I asked Jorge and Joanne where the name for this route came from. I expected them to tell me that the name alluded to Wild Turkey bourbon, especially given the context of another Urioste route named Sour Mash a couple hundred feet to the right of Dream of Wild Turkeys. Superficially, this might be the case, but as Joanne went on to describe in detail, the name holds a much deeper meaning—it is a commentary on the heated controversy at the time over adding bolts to routes. Joanne began by telling us that in the 70's the word "turkey" was synonymous with "jerk". She and Jorge were often called "turkeys" for their next-generation style of adding bolts to unprotectable sections of climbs. Next, Joanne noted that in the 70's there was a recently-established route in the United Kingdom called "Dream of White Horses", which had become acclaimed by purists for its unbolted nature. Combining these two ideas in a clever twist, the Uriostes named their route. Knowing the full story behind the name makes me like it all the more.
Click here to see Dow's excellent pitch-by-pitch route description for Dream of Wild Turkeys on Summitpost.org.
a. Looking up from the base of Black Velvet Wall Left. The climbers in the photo are at the belay at the top of Pitch 1 of Dream of Wild Turkeys (which is also Pitch 1 of Prince of Darkness, which is the route these climbers were on). The obvious diagonal crack is Pitch 2 of Dream of Wild Turkeys. Pitch 3 is the crack that goes straight up from the end of the diagonal crack.
b. Looking up the diagonal crack of Pitch 2, which is a longish pitch with a mix of sustained 5.9 crack and face climbing. The other climbers are on Prince of Darkness.
c. Looking up the beginning of Pitch 3, which heads up the 5.9 crack until the crack ends, and then...
d. ...when the crack on Pitch 3 ends, you make an exciting traverse (protected by 4 or 5 bolts and good feet) to gain a crack system to the right.
e. Climbing near the top of the crack of Pitch 4. The slabby 10a crux is where the crack peters out and you step left to the belay.
f. Pitch 5 is an exciting 5.10a climb past a line of bolts to a crack system to the left. This pitch also marked the end of the sun on the route for us.
g. Pitch 6 follows a crescent-shaped corner up right, and then jogs back left (some bolts) to an anchor. We had two ropes which came in handy for eliminating rope drag on this pitch.
h. Dow leading off Pitch 7, which follows a fun 5.8 thin crack straight up to a nice ledge.
i. A climber on the last pitch of Prince of Darkness. Prince of Darkness and Dream of Wild Turkeys are quite close to each other the whole way up, so you can pretty much have a conversation with the party beside you for the length of the climb.
j. Looking up at Pitches 8-10 of Dream of Wild Turkeys. Most climbers stop at the top of Pitch 7 and rappel. I always like the idea of "getting to the top" and would have liked to continue onward, but Dow (who had climbed these upper pitches before) made a good point about the rock up there being a bit more friable (since it is not climbed as often) and the high volume of climbers on the route below us that we definitely didn't want to hit with any rock bombs from above. So we stopped at the top of Pitch 7 like most climbers.
k. Five double-rope rappels got us back down to the ground.