Epinephrine is a unique route, even for the Red Rocks of Nevada. It has two main attractions: 3 beautiful pitches of 5.9 chimney and a total of 18 pitches plus a bunch of easier climbing to get to the top. The crux of the route, instead of being a move or a pitch, is simply getting up and back without an epic. While there is a bit of a tradition of bivis on the route (many unplanned) the big challenge is to make it in a day. Although I have been to the Red Rocks many times, I had never had a partner that wanted to try Epinephrine. Last year I talked someone into going to the chimneys and then rapping, but this really doesn’t count. This year, after extensive fishing around for partners, I managed to talk my wife Marti into sharing the madness. She’s a very fast and dependable climber and does quite well in chimneys even if she doesn’t really enjoy them.
After dumping the kids with their grandparents in Zion, we blasted into Vegas around 10pm. We opted for the deluxe bivi at the local Motel 6 – gotta make sure my partner is well rested! Up at 6am (should have been 5 but we were wasted), quick breakfast, then up to the rocks. At least they fixed the road into Black Velvet so didn’t beat up the rental car. By 7:15 we were on the way.
Our plan was to bring the absolute minimum of gear. We carried our shoes, a quart of water, and some food in the pack and climbed on a single rope. No turning back!
Three quick pitches lead up to the base of the chimneys. Marti had no problems with the light pack and we were flying. Nobody ahead of us on the route either. The topos show the first chimney pitch as 165′ but there’s a nice ledge on the right about 30 feet up the chimneys so we ran the 4th lead up there. The next pitch is where the chimneying gets real.
I like these chimneys so much because they have a lot of variety, are well protected, have nice rests, and are aesthetic (IMHO of course!). The first is probably the hardest – it’s mostly back to feet with cracks in the back that take wires and medium cams. There are actually two cracks in the back – a large fin separates them. About two thirds of the way up the cracks open up to #3 and #4 Camalot size and the fin in back forms a nose-like overhang. Passing this is probably the crux but with an adaquate supply of big pro and long legs it’s not bad. Marti follows but the chimney is too wide at the nose so she laybacks around it. It would have been nice to have a haul line for the pack but we’re going light so she drags it on a long runner until she can clip it on a loop of the belay rope.
This pitch ends on a nice ledge with a bolt. The next one is much shorter and less serious. After chimneying up a bit you encounter an overhanging offwidth. However, after placing the #4 again, I chimneyed out down a bit onto an easy ledge, thus bypassing the nasty slot. Above this the chimney widens and you do some face and crack climbing to another good belay.
The third chimney pitch is the most intense one. This one is lots of back – knee on well varnished rock. It starts fairly easily leading you up past a fixed wire into the bowels of the rock. After placing the #4 yet again I avoided the constricted back of the chimney by traversing to the outside. This is pretty slick and insecure until you reach a bit of a ledge with a bolt. From there it’s straight up, past another bolt and lots of back to knee work to the top of the chimneys. After pulling the #4, Marti really starts to get freaked chimneying out to the bolt. I provide as much encouragement as possible and she eventually makes it to the bolt where I can get the pack from her and she can rest a bit.
Although the chimneys slowed us down a bit, we’re making good time. Marti leads a short 4th class pitch to the top of the tower (not that great a bivi ledge in my opinion, plus I’d hate to be hauling bivi gear) where we can relax a bit.
We still have 10 pitches (by the topo at least) to go but from here it’s all face and crack. I had some trouble switching back to face climbing from chimneys but eventually I get moving up. The next two pitches combine easily and we’re up on top of pitch 10. I looks like you could traverse off left here to turkeyland but we’re on the way up. Pitch 11 is one of the few easy ones so Marti leads up the Elephants Trunk (a semi-detached piller) to another nice ledge. From here, the topo has two 5.9 pitches up cracks and a dihedral. Although there are a bunch of bolts, there’s also a lot of natural protection too and I never feel runout. This part is long and continuous, but not as hard as other nearby routes like Wild Turkeys or Prince of Darkness. There’s not much to tell about this part except that there were some hanging belays and we were able to combine pitches again to avoid yet another belay. Although Swain makes pitch 17 sound pretty bad (especially for tired climbers) it wasn’t that hairy. The holds get thin for a few moves while you traverse left on the wall around an overhang but it’s over with very quickly.
Following the 18th pitch was the first place since the chimneys that Marti almost lost it. As you finally pull up on the last ledge, you look up to see that there’s another 350′ of rock between you and the top. When she realized how much more there was to do after the ‘last’ pitch she just about broke down. But then she got it together and we started climbing diagonally right up a large ramp that bypasses the final tower. We climbed almost all of this in tandem except for the last traverse where the ramp narrows to just a foot or two and the exposure is absolutely amazing. Once off the climb we scampered (or maybe hobbled) up to the top of the peak to face the descent. The sun was still up but not for much longer. The guidebook wasn’t particularly helpful but there were cairns here and there to help. After following the ridge to a subsidiary summit, we started straight down a gully but got cliffed and had to work right back to the ridge. I’m not sure where the best route is but once we went across to the right side of the ridge everything was fine.
By dark we reached the pint where the route joins the descent from Triassic Sands and Frogland. The trail is much easier to follow and, aided by a half moon, we staggered to the car. No epic!
Having taken only a quart of water for the two of us (fortunately the route is mainly in the shade!) our next task was fluid replacement. After draining all water in the car we proceeded to Vegas where we down generous quantities of water, Big Gulps, Slurpees, and anything else wet. I found I couldn’t eat much else due to a lack of saliva. We arrived in Vegas around 10pm (again!) and then drove back to Zion to reclaim the kids at 1am.
This is the nicest route I’ve done in Vegas, but thats probably because I like chimneys and routes with lots of climbing. Although we cut the 18 leads down to 16 by combining leads, there’s still a lot of climbing. It also has a short approach and an OK descent. Moving fast and starting early is the way to go – although we carried an absolute minimum of gear we just barely made it.
As far as gear for the route, we carried lots of wires for the top part and 4 big nuts for the chimneys: #3 and #4 camalots, #4 friend, and a #11 hex. If I do it again I’d probably skip the #4 friend. The #4 camalot wasn’t really essential – the friend would have worked in the same spots – but it always seems so bomber to me that I don’t mind the weight. On the later pitches I was pretty good and placing the #4 early on so it wouldn’t have to ride my rack too far!
Epinephrine: A Trip Report
Originally taken from rec.climbing
Written By: John Peterson