Guided Climbing Epinephrine, Red Rock, Las Vegas, NV
Are you ready to climb Epinephrine?
It’s hard to think of a more classic moderate free climb than Epinephrine in Red Rock, Las Vegas, NV. In fact, Epinephrine sits at number 10 on Mountain Project’s top 20 classic climb list. It seems to be the first route that comes to mind for every first-time visiting climber to Red Rock. I am sure it’s on nearly every multi pitch climber’s to-do list; and it’s “only” 5.9! We get many requests to climb Epinephrine, but do you know what to expect on a day attempting to climb Epinephrine?
Let’s first break it down by the numbers. Epinephrine sits at the end of Black Velvet Canyon which is approached by a mile and a half of moderate hiking. According to the guidebook, the route is 2,240 feet of climbing broken down into 16 pitches. Of those 16 pitches, 6 of those pitches are 5.9, 2 pitches are 5.8, 4 pitches are 5.7, and 4 pitches are 5.4. Finally, from the summit you will need to reverse that 2,240 feet of elevation over 2 miles back down to your car in the parking lot. I would estimate that it takes a competent party roughly 8-10 hours to complete the route on sight. A guided party will generally take anywhere from 8-14 hours. It is not uncommon to hear of unprepared recreational parties taking 12-16 hours on route or even having an unplanned bivy due to being too slow on route. Rescues are so common for this route that Search and Rescue even has an information board at the trail head detailing the descent trail with a link to a downloadable GPS map. Epinephrine is not a route to be taken lightly by beginners.
Epinephrine is most famous for its 500 feet of chimney climbing, which you would be hard pressed to find a similar feature anywhere else in the world. This famous chimney is extremely difficult to prepare for and the style of climbing you will encounter. Indian Creek style cracks in the back of the chimney will help the well versed crack climber, but it will still be mandatory to bust out some strenuous 5.9 chimney climbing for a majority of the chimney. This is not a common feature in most climbing areas and would be very hard to practice for. Luckily, we have a few crags local to Red Rock that we like to take climbers to prepare for what you will encounter in the chimney.
We are looking for you to have a certain amount of experience to attempt to climb Epinephrine:
-You are confident following 5.10a trad climbs
-You have climbed several grade III multi pitch routes (bonus points if you have climbed grade IV)
-You have experience crack climbing and confident in your hand jams
-You have experience climbing chimneys or will do a chimney prep day
-You have the stamina for non-stop strenuous labor for 10-14 hours
Lastly, if you are unsure of your stamina and you want to test yourself consider this: Take a day with your climbing partner to do a “mock Epi” gym day. First hike 1.5 miles with a 25 lbs pack ending at your climbing gym. (Let’s assume your gym has 50 foot climbing walls.) Climb 17, 5.9-5.10a routes. Climb 17, 5.7-5.8 routes. Finish with 11, 5.4-5.6. When finished with those 45 pitches, hike another 2 miles with a 25 lbs pack. Were you able to do that in less than 10 hours? Did it feel easy or impossible? This exercise should give you a good idea of where you stand as far as physically being able to complete Epinephrine.
Alternative climbing routes in the Red Rock: Black Orpheus, Dark Shadows to the top. Community pillar is an ok prep climb, as well as Dream of Wild Turkeys,
Thomas Gilmore, AMGA Guide
Mountain Skills Rock Guides, LLC
A Story from Kurt Arend about climbing Epinephrine in the Red Rock National Conservation Area.
A quick note that both Kurt and Jay have been extensively climbing and guiding for most of their lives. This route was way below their ability level. So in other words, this is not your typical day on Epinephrine.
One of the best days for me in Red Rocks. Jay, and myself, had been guiding for a while in red rocks (Jay a lot longer than me), but we both had not done the mighty Epinephrine. One day we decide to go for it. I pick Jay up in Blue Diamond and told him the news. I had to be home in like 6 hours for my sons birthday. We just laughed. we are at the trail head by 7 ish. As we are racking up, I asked these two guys asked us what we were doing, and I told them Epinephrine. The guy looked at our rack (only like 4-6 nuts, 8 draws, 3 TCU’s, and 3 other cams). They told us to make sure we bring headlamps. Jay’s response was “no need he has to be back by noon!” They looked confused as did I. I mean 18 pitches right? 5.9 chimneys? We start to run. We hit the base and I am tired, time for a Camel, nothing makes the lungs feel better than sucking on a non filter. I look at Jay and asked where his climbing shoes are and he said he was going to do it in his approach shoes. Huh? I am going to simul with you in approach shoes? Oh well. I was really getting into this speed climbing thing with some wall routes in Zion and in the valley so I was skilled. I lead all the way to the chimneys in one pitch (takin the 5.8 way). I was yelling a Jay to hurry. We were up 5 pitches in under 20 minutes, I felt like we were running. Jays lead 2 chimney pitches as one in his approach shoes and placed about 5 pieces. I started the next block of two. I wanted to stop to place pro so many times but it just seemed like it would take forever, so I just clipped the bolts. We hit the black tower in less than an hour of climbing. We were stoked. After a short smoke break Jay got me to the base of the Trunk where I took over and we simul climbed for a ways. Jay took over right before the last roof and we simul climbed the rest of the way to the top. I remember thinking how come Jay was climbing so fast, but when I turned the lip of the roof he didn’t even stop to place pro. The rope was snug at my harness and I couldn’t keep up, this guys an animal. we hit the top and just simul climbed our way out. (its not over till the end for sure) We hit the top and just yelled. I think we did the route in 2-3 hours. (no clock) As we started the decent (no idea where to go) we just laughed and yelled, and fumbled around, but had the best time. As we neared the start of Frogland, we could see the guys from earlier. We gave a yell, and ran to the car. I thought I was late for sure, but much to our amazement, it was still way before noon. (I want to say like 10:45 but I don’t remember) so with plenty of time we drove back to Blue Diamond and drank some beers and just really sat back and thought about what just happened. All of a sudden I sat up and yelled “I JUST CLIMBED EPINEPHRINE” Jay and I still talk about it; it was one of my best days in red rocks, we had the time of our lives.
Thanks for reading, now go have an adventure! Kurt “Burt” Arend