|Black Velvet Wall
This is a decent route which is not as time consuming as Swain's topo would indicate. The first 6 pitches in his topo easily go in 4 rope lengths, even with a 50m rope. The route goes to the top of the wall, but the climbing deteriorates above here, plus there are no fixed anchors, so most parties rappel after the first 4 pitches, so take two ropes.
This route is on the left side of the Black Velvet wall and gets very little sun, if any. A good choice for a warm day. Start near the left margin of the wall, 40' left of a huge block leaning against the base of the crag.
P1: Climb a short crack up and right, past a bolt, continue up crack and face to a 2-bolt belay on a ledge (150').
P2: Step left and climb up into a corner system to the top of a pillar on the right (with tree). Above and right of the pillar there is now a bolted belay, the problem is this is probably 190' from the previous belay, plus the geometry can make for heinous rope drag. We stopped atop the pillar and then moved the belay 30' over to the bolts.
P3: Here is where Swain's topo is confusing. Step right onto the face and follow an obvious crack up. For the most part, this crack is 1-3", but for some short sections it is wider, but you don't have to get into the thing. Belay after about 150' at a tree (marked the end of pitch 4 in Swain's topo), 5.9.
P4: Climb a lower-angle section past loose blocks to the base of a huge right-facing corner (visible in photos). Don't climb the corner system, but move left onto a steep face left of the corner, and follow at least 4 bolts to a bolted belay (careful with rope drag on this pitch).
At least one party has gotten confused at this point, continuing on because they believed they were lower on the route due to the pitch lengths listed in Swain. They report that the next anchor is a joke (for rappelling off of), so consider this anchor "the point of last return". Either rap now or continue upward.
Standard rack to #4 Camalot (although I do not remember using the #4). Two ropes.
Higher on the first pitch.
BETA PHOTO: From 3-bolt anchor at top of pitch 1 looking up at...
The starting moves on Refried Brains.
A view of the strip from the upper pitches of Refr...
|By George Bell|
From: Boulder, CO
Feb 26, 2004
My friends Bill Wright and Lou Lorber climbed this route one day, intending to rap off after pitch 6. By mistake they passed the point of last return and had to go to the top of the wall, which took much longer than they had intended (this route is NOT Grade II if you go to the top). It started getting dark, and we at the base could see no sign of them. Figuring they must be walking down as for Epinephrine, we were did them a favor and took their packs and shoes out to the car. Hours later they finally made it to the cars, none too amused that we had removed their approach shoes and packs (with headlamps) from the base of the climb. Oops!
|By Jake Wyatt|
From: Longmont, CO
Feb 26, 2004
I count myself among those parties who have gotten confused by relying too much on the pitch lengths in Swain topo. Our last pitch (which, after reading George's description, was likely after the "don't go in the corner" decision point on p4) was a nasty crumbly stem-fest in the corner, ending at a fixed "anchor" consisting of a single nut and a slung chickenhead. We buried a #5 metolius to back-up that mess, and rapped off with our tails between our legs.
Up to that point, though, the route was enjoyable.
|By John Peterson|
Mar 8, 2004
This is a great route. The biggest problem is the sucky Swain topo. NEVER TRUST SWAIN'S PITCH LENGTHS! I can't imagine how 150 feet of climbing can turn into something like 300' on his topo.
I was suckered into bringing some big gear by the OW on the topo but you don't need it. All of the wide sections are fairly short and other pro is available. As usual in Vegas you never have to climb OW as OW anyway since there are so many features.
We rapped after the 5.9 bolted pitch - not sure if the climbing above is worth it or not.
|By Larry DeAngelo|
Apr 6, 2004
I thought the full route was a good one. The lower pitches are merely a good "crag route" but the upper section adds a lot of character. There are really three sections. The first (4 or 5 pitches) has a bunch of 5.8 and 5.9 climbing on good rock. The second five pitches are a little easier (5.7 or 5.8) but reduced solidity requires careful climbing. The top section is about a thousand feet of mostly 4th class ridge. Not difficult, but you need to be efficient moving over the easy terrain. Taken together, the whole package constitutes a broad and rewarding mountaineering challenge. If this kind of thing appeals to you, then you'll think this is a great route.
|By Jason D. Martin|
Apr 14, 2005
Just climbed Refried Brains to the top yesterday...
I found the amount of dangerously loose rock on the upper pitches to be quite disconcerting. Indeed, the sixth pitch in particular was nothing less than mildly terrifying. There were times on that pitch when I was clipping ancient rusty bolts while holding on to nothing more than a series of loosely stacked blocks.
That said, the climb was still a great adventure with a great partner.
I would only recommend the upper pitches to those who have at least one of the following qualifications:
1) You have climbed a fair bit of alpine rock and have experienced serious looseness in the past.
2) You have experience on a number of other obscure or loose Red Rock climbs.
3) You have participated in first ascents in Red Rock where everything is loose.
If you fit into one of the preceding categories, then you'll be nervous, but you'll enjoy the route. If you don't fit into one of the categories, chances are that you will experience a fair bit of terror on the upper pitches.
|By John Hegyes|
From: Las Vegas, NV
Jul 13, 2005
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI HVS 5a
We climbed Refried Brains on July 6, 2005 and let me tell you that I was not without some trepidation as we were approaching the route. I was armed with beta from three sources: the Bell remarks above, the Swain guide, and the recently published Brock guide - not one of which agreed with an other.
I found Bell's beta to be dead-on. We climbed the standard route in the four pitches as listed above. There were solid bolted belay stations at the top of each of these four pitches. As previously mentioned, the Swain description is factually inaccurate - even his verbal and topo descriptions contradict themselves. I'm sad to report that the new Brock guide adds to the confusion as it is also inaccurate as to the pitch lengths. She reports her pitch 4 as 170' and pitch 5 as 70'. Bell accurately combines these into his pitch 4 and is less than 200' in total.
All that aside, I loved these four full-value pitches. Pitch 3 was the crux for me. Pulling through the second offwidth followed by the micro finger crack was tough work for the grade. The fourth pitch bolt-protected face climbing was compelling in light of the deteriorating rock quality. Definitely a good route in the heat of the summer - it was hotter than hell on the approach, but quite balmy on the crag.
|By John Wilder|
From: Las Vegas, NV
Sep 5, 2005
I finally climbed this rotue on September 3rd, 2005, after skirting around it for years. Typical of routes on the Black Velvet wall, I found the climbing to be: exceptional, steep, and sustained. A good route overall with the first three pitches being absolutely stellar and the last pitch being exciting, but not as good as I would have liked.
A side note for those bashing Swain: It is obvious from his information that he did not climb the route, but may have at least looked at it. However, a glance back to Joanne's original guide book will reveal the source of pitch length error...especially on the last two pitches as per George's above. Swain relied on Joanne's book for pitch length, but I suspect he talked to a few folks about the rappel route on it and thus managed to confuse us all with his topo.
|By Bruce Hildenbrand|
May 18, 2006
I did this route years ago using a topo from Rock and Ice circa 1986. We climbed two pitches above the top of the "now standard" 4th pitch (5.9 bolted face). There was a fixed anchor on top of the 2nd pitch above the 5.9 face pitch so we rapped down on that with double 50m ropes and ended up about 40 feet above the anchor on top of the 5.9 face pitch. We put in an anchor and my partner downclimbed the 40 feet putting in a piece of pro every 5-10 feet. I then took out our anchor and downclimbed to my partner removing his pro. This seemed like a good way to get in the rest of the 5th class climbing and not having to do all the 4th class and the descent.
The climbing above the now standard 4th pitch was a little less solid than the first 4 pitches (some of that tan colored, sandy stuff) but I felt like it was worth it.
Feb 11, 2007
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI HVS 5a
This route was pretty challenging and incredibly fun. We had a great time on it. Unfortunately the beta in the swain book was a bit misleading and I ended up having to downclimb most of the 6th pitch.
|By Tom Fralich|
From: Fort Collins, CO
Apr 6, 2007
The bolts on Pitch 5 (Brock guide) are in pretty bad shape. Most are 1/4 inch and some are very badly rusted. One even looked to have a cracked hanger. Climb very carefully, especially if linking from Pitch 4 with rope drag.
|By J. Thompson|
From: denver, co
Apr 16, 2007
The bolts on the Final pitch have been upgraded as of April 14th 2007.
Thank the ASCA...and send them money.
|By Greg Barnes|
Apr 23, 2007
The rope drag around that arete midway up George Bell's 4th pitch was heinous, and I was cursing the guidebooks which showed a bolted belay at the arete. Cursing them until I rapped down, replacing bolts, and realized that the old 3/8" bolt on the arete (shown/described as a bolted station in the original Urioste guide, Swain, AND Brock) did indeed used to have a 1/4" companion - which must have broken on someone!!! That would be pretty nasty - belaying on the arete and having an anchor bolt snap!
Anyway, that belay on the arete now has 2 bolts again (one on each side of the arete, as did the original). I strongly recommend belaying there, I don't know how everyone linked those pitches without heinous rope drag. We did NOT put rap gear on the bolts since I figured everyone going to there would do the next short pitch, and it's an easy double-rope rap to the top of 3.
The rap from 3 to 2 is a rope stretcher with two 50m ropes, I would describe pitch 3 as 165' not 150'.
Replacement was 2 anchor bolts on arete, 3 pro bolts on that next pitch (1 had been previously replaced) - Greg Barnes, Julie Haas, and Josh Thompson.
|By Andy Laakmann|
From: Bend, OR
Oct 16, 2009
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI HVS 5a
Good route. Not on par, IMO, with its neighbors... but absolutely worth doing. I didn't think P4 (as George describes it above and in the new Handren guide), was worth doing... but P1-P3 are cool.
P1 (5.8+) 150 feet - Great technical crack/face climbing. Very good rock. One bolt towards the beginning and then bomber anchor bolts.
P2 (5.8+) 170 feet - I was a bit confused, as I traversed all the way left into the corner.. only to quickly realize it was wrong. Head up the broken face slightly left of the belay until you enter the corner proper. Stay in the corner until you get atop the pillar. Some very steep bits are managed by large huecos on the left. The anchor bolts are 30' climbers right... so belay atop the pillar and then move the belay.
WARNING - A giant tree is perilously perched between the pillar and bolts. It looks entirely detached and seems to be barely hanging on. Maybe this has been here for a while, but it looked like it had recently fallen over. Move carefully....
P3 (5.9) 160 feet - This is a long, engaging, steep, and fantastic pitch. The gear is generally excellent, though the first wide bit gave me pause. I got an OK #4 camalot, but it looked ready to walk and expand with the slightest nudge. A #5 camalot would probably work better, but the #4 worked. You'll be feeling the rope weight by the top since the pitch is dead vertical. Anchor bolts are right past the small tree.
P4 (5.9) 130 feet - This pitch was a dud IMO, and I won't be repeating it. The pitch heads up the easy chimney (one bolt) before moving over easy ground to the arete and bolted anchor. I skipped the anchor and continued up the bolted face (with some nuts supplementing). Rope drag wasn't too bad. The anchor is up and RIGHT of the last bolt. After all the great crack climbing below, the face climbing on this pitch just seemed like a bit of a let down.
Gear - Nuts (including small), double set of cams from small to #3 camalot. One #4 or #5 camalot.
Raps went fast and the pulls seemed pretty clean.
|By Kurt Montgomery|
Dec 20, 2009
rating: 5.9 5c 17 VI HVS 5a
When I climbed this route with Seattle local David Yount we trusted the Swain guide and ended up following the chossy stemming corner to the right of the fourth pitch I found the the climbing on this dihedral to be enjoyable and with traffic would clean up. This pitch end at good ledge with a less than desirable anchor. We traversed left on this ledge stacked full of death blocks to regain the proper route. We linked the next two pitches to a solid thread backed up with a decent fixed stopper. With two 60M we rapped this pitch to the anchors on the top of the real pitch four. I thought the climbing above the pitch four anchors was fun and only midly loose. There was also good gear to be had.
|By Rob DeZonia|
Sep 4, 2011
My brother and I climbed this to the top and had a good outing. The sections of funky rock are through pretty easy sections. It seemed like a free for all on many of the upper pitches. We just tried to climb up the correct area of the wall where we figured the route to be. I think we noticed the actual route off to our left a couple times and just worked our way over to it and up more typical juggy red rock chunk. Simul-climbing the route when the angle eases off made the route go fairly quick.
|By Kevin Dahlstrom|
From: Fort Worth, TX
Apr 28, 2012
This route doesn't get as much credit as it deserves - probably because it's shorter than the other Black Velvet classics. The climbing is excellent and more varied than neighboring routes. One note on the rack - the Handren guide suggests single cams to 4". I brought doubles to 2" and single 3 & 4 and used every bit of it. A couple of the pitches are long and I was glad I had the extra gear.
Rope drag on P4 isn't too bad if you're careful but it would be more enjoyable to do the route in 5 pitches (stopping at the arete).
|By Rob Fielding|
From: Las Vegas, NV
Sep 25, 2012
Rack: double to 2. Single to 3, 4, 5.
2nd pitch: step slightly left and up the face w intermittent crack systems. Stay in right facing corner aiming for the slot. This pitch is 180ft. Belay next to tree n then traverse down to anchors once Ya bring your partner up.
Doubles are a excellent choice for reducing rope drag on p4