This post is a story about a climbing trip that Luke and I went on to Red Rock just outside of Las Vegas in 2023 to attempt to finish Epinephrine (Epi). For an intro and to our first two scouting sessions on Epi, see I won’t go into the details of that trip here, but suffice it to say that we didn’t ever finish Epi on our first two attempts - nor did we think we would - but one of the attempts was … more influential than the other. So, if you’re a intrigued, make sure to check out that post.

For a brief reminder, Epi is a 2240 foot route that can be done in 10-18 pitches, depending on how you link pitches, with a 1 hour hike in, and 3 hour hike out. There’s a great story in Handren’s guide book from Joanne Urioste about their putting up of Epi and it’s name. I’m happy to lend my copy of Handren to others - just let me know!

Handren’s Red Rock guidebook showing the Epi beta

Epinephrine - follows the red line, ends at the pine tree circled at top

TODO: Readers are warned that the story includes climbing beta and discussion of fears in everyday climbing. Read on if you’d like.

And: climbing is dangerous and you assume all risk. If you use any ideas here in your own climbing, I am not responsible or liable for any injury or worse.

The plan

The purpose of this trip was to climb Epi, so similar to our previous trips, everything is building towards that goal. Here was the overall plan, all of which took place in Black Velvet Canyon to give us increasing experience and exposure on the drive, hikes, and gotchas. Additionally, all of the routes were first ascended by the same duo as Epi - Joanne and Jorge Urioste - which we figure might have added a certain closeness to Epi, at least in some ways.

  1. Frogland - 5.8, 6 pitches, all gear anchors. Shares some walk off with Epi.
  2. Refried Brains - 5.9, 4 pitches, 2 bolted anchors, 2 gear anchors. Spicy so maybe getting us ready for the challenge.
  3. Epinephrine - 5.9, 13 - 18 pitches, 10-12 bolted anchors plus a few gear anchors

We had some backup route options in case we flew through the first ones


We wanted to go near the summer solstice since the daylight was longest and we thought we’d need as much of that as we could get! We ended up targeting the weekend of June 2 which was the full moon for June. This meant that we climbed some in May and some in June.

Sun was rising at 5:25 AM and setting at 7:50 PM which meant we had about 14.5 hours of daylight. We tried to go near the full moon in case that might help illuminate the end of climbing or the hike off.

It also meant that it was hot. We knew this going into the trip. But we live in Texas so we’re used to the heat.

As it typically seems to go with our climbing trips, I was feeling a little under the weather - some cold, sore throat, not COVID. Daycare!


We stuck to the plan and made it to Frogland on climbing day 1. We made a pit stop at the last bathroom and a cyclist mentioned that Frogland would be hot. I wondered if they really knew, or were just guessing since it was hot.

See everything in Black Velvet Canyon are generally north-facing routes which should be more shaded than the south-facing routes on the same mountain given the location of Las Vegas relative to the equator. Mountain Project has some sun data too, but it’s kind of difficult to know the exact angle of different parts of the climb even with Mountain Project’s sun data. But, this had me assuming the route would generally be shaded.

I was wrong :) And the hike in was shirt drenchingly hot. We got to the base and decided to lay in the little shade we could find until it was closer to the sun going over the mountain. Since Frogland is pretty short, we figured we could start the route at 12 or 1 and still finish with light. So we waited.

Waiting for less sun before starting Frogland

After a while of staring at the rocks, one of us tested cell service, and surprisingly, it worked, so we both chatted with folks for a while. That was nice.

When the sun was almost over the mountain, Luke ledge pitch 1.

But it was still very sunny, and therefore hot.

So we slept on the ledge atop pitch 1 for a while.

After the route was fully shaded, we continued up pitch 2 and 3. Luke’s anchor atop pitch 3 included a nut, which he likes to do when it’s possible in gear anchors to save the cams for the next pitch.

Frogland pitch 3 anchor and the start of pitch 4

Pitch 4 has a thin traverse under a large roof. I remember this as a highlight from a previous trip. This time I was leading :) Since it was so hot, the tape on my fingers was slipping, doh! But I made it through without falling on lead :) The Frogland pitch 4 traverse

Pitch 5 is known for the chockstone that you climb under and anchor on top.

Pitch 6 is a slab runout. I led it and stayed left doing layback moves placing no gear for probably 40 feet. Luke followed on the tenuous slab moves.

The descent was through the gully that I remember going down with Liang on the previous trip. One time with Liang, we went too far left and had to rap 30 feet. So with Luke we stayed left but not all the way left, and it worked out pretty nicely. We’d need to repeat this for Epi, so it was nice to have it in our recent experience.

The day was fun and I’d do Frogland again.

We saw no other people in the canyon this day.

The flora was beautiful on the Frogland hike out:

Refried Brains

We needed a route which was in the shade, so we selected Refried Brains which was reportedly one of the only routes in the canyon that’s always in the shade.

The route is not very popular, relative to Frogland and Epinephrine and others like Dream of Wild Turkeys or Sour Mash.

But, it shares much of the same hike as Epi and as mentioned earlier is supposed to be challenging.

We arrived and saw there was another party on the route which was funny since yesterday we saw no one, but today the only other party is on the same route. Shade, it’s valuable.

They were near the top, so I started up pitch 1.

I sewed it up. It was a hard pitch! Jason placing a lot of gear on pitch 1, aka “sewing it up”.

When Luke got to the top of pitch 1, the party above was nearing us. We would let them pass through before we climbed up. But, pitch 1 was hard! We were both a little worried that the more difficult pitches above would be too much for us.

And when the party arrived, their description of above confirmed our fears and we decided to follow them down, rather than continue up.

And this turned out to be very nice for us. We got to hike out with them and get to know them a little. Luke was able to climb with one of them after I left the trip. One of them had just done Epi a few days prior - and confirmed our guess that the weather was fine in the chimneys. But they also gave us pause on our ability to complete Epi because they said it was no cake walk, that the chimneys were slick. They said that Refried Brains was harder than Epi.

So, we now had more data points about Epi. Not necessarily confidence inspiring, but more data.


I still felt sick. So we decided to take a rest day, and get to bed early enough that we could start Epi on sunlight the following day.

So, like typical Luke and Jason fashion, we drank coffee, ate, saw a movie. We questioned whether we were ready for Epi. I got some nyquil and pseudoephed and a few 5-hour energies from Walgreens, some ice cream from McDonalds, and we went to bed super early.


Epi logistics

Sunrise was at 5:24 AM, which is when we wanted to start climbing. So, we worked backward from there. We left our car to start hiking at 4:20 AM. So, we left our hotel at 3:30 AM, and woke up at 2:30 AM. And since I was sick earlier in the week, I went to bed at like 5:30 PM :) Anyways, we were on time on Epi day.

Here’s us climbing up the 4th class free solo at 5:07 AM

We each brought our light packs. Mine is a marathoner’s pack, it can hold a 2L hydration bladder, snacks, tape, emergency blanket, and my Patagonia Houdini windbreaker. Luke’s bag is a little bigger holding a 3L bladder.

We each also attached a flexible water bottle - Platypus DuoLock - to our harnesses for the beginning pitches through the chimneys. They both broke during the chimneys. Not catastrophically. But enough that we finished the water and stowed them in our bags. When I do Epi again, I’ll probably skip the 3rd liter on the harness and just go with 2L in the pack.

Luke with his Platy bottle snacking up before the pitch 4, the first real chimney that we largely avoid by climbing to the right

For gear, we brought two sets of nuts, double cams to 4, a 5, and the big bros. Why not? Maybe it’d slow us down a smidge, but our style is to have more gear than we need. We used the 4s and 5 but not the big bros.

For a few years, we’ve been using a clove hitch master point at bolted anchors (from, which we can setup very quickly and with any sling. We bring a lot of alpine draws, 10-ish double length slings and a few quad-length slings for gear anchors, so we’re typically always having some sling available at the anchor.

Luke normally climbs with the ROLLNLOCK since he uses it for his personal anchor on rappels, and it can be used as a rescue device for ascending, progress capture, or pulleys. Like our scouting trip on Epi, we used the ROLLNLOCK to do mini-hauls up the chimneys of our packs and shoes.

Lastly, we used a 60m rope for our climbing rope, and had a thinner twin/double rope as our haul line.

Epi early pitches

We’d climbed the early pitches on our previous trips, so we mainly zipped through these without much trouble. Luke led them all since I was going to lead the chimneys and any harder upper pitches. See for the story for those pitches.

The only new nuance during this trip was a party came behind us. After a while of watching us climb, they left. That was fine with us. To our knowledge, we ended up being the only climbers on the route all day. This was a rare situation and was a blessing for us.

Epi pitch 5 - second chimney

This is the crux pitch. The chimney the person 2 days ago said was slippery.

Jason cruising the crux pitch

I felt strong and capable and confident on the pitch. My left side was in, with my back on the left. This was great for me.

Me atop pitch 5 I kept it a short pitch

Hauling the packs went easily here.

Once Luke got to me, we realized that there was a loop in the rope. I think it’s because the anchor I set was behind the climbing. We tried to unloop it for a while, but ultimately I ended up securing in a few extra personal anchors, and unroping from the climbing rope, so we could clear it all up. This certainly added time to the ascent.

Epi pitch 6 - exiting the second chimney with hand/finger crack on face

Some people link these pitches. But I’m glad I didn’t. I think it would have felt spicier on my p6 with less gear. Cody mentions in that you can opt for the squeeze offwidth at the back of the chimney where there’s gear, or stay where it’s airy. Cody prefers the squeeze and that’s what I did. Honnold in RR17 on his massive link up seems to prefer the airy topout. I wanted to consider the airy approach, but I just felt so secure in the tighter squeeze :)

After exiting the chimney, you are on a ledge. I’ve seen some Youtube videos of people being pretty confused here trying to go up a thin dihedral. So, I was privy to the knowledge that the real route is to the right up a ramp and onto a face. The face climbing with a thin crack for protection was great.

Jason from the anchor atop pitch 6

Hauling the packs went easily here.

Epi pitch 7 - third chimney

This is the last of the chimneys! And from Cody’s video, it seemed like it was going to be pretty easy, and also that my back was going to be to the right.

Jason starting pitch 7, not yet at the first bolt

There’s a bolt on the left face part way up this pitch. In the above picture, you can see me starting the route but not quite at the first bolt. The chimney is a bit tighter than the others, and the features on the left face of the chimney provide great foot holds and hand holds.

After exiting the chimney, it’s a short jaunt up to the top of the black towers.

It was a nice feeling to reach this point! We’ve got the hardest stuff behind us.

Then I went to haul and the packs wouldn’t budge!

Oh no!

Luke ended up climbing and pushing the bags up and yelling up to me so I could haul a little more. This worked, but wasn’t ideal. But it makes sense since all of those nice features for foot/hand holds were snagging the packs in the tighter chimney.

12:16 PM: The anchor atop pitch 7, even a shelf for the jolly rancher

We rested here for a while to let the next face pitches get into the shade.

We tied the haul line to my back since we wouldn’t need it anymore.

Epi pitch 8 and half of 9 - A 5.7 face

Luke led this pitch since it was listed as a 5.7 face pitch. The start was a little spicy. He skipped the Handren guide’s bolted anchor at the bottom of the Elephant’s trunk and rather ended atop the Elephant’s Trunk at a bolted anchor (listed optional in the guide).

When I arrived, Luke offered to move the haul line to his back, but I said it was fine on me. It stayed there for the rest of the day.

So, Luke did about 1.5 pitches.

Epi half of pitch 9 and 10 - 5.9 face

I led the next 1.5 pitches. This was the section where at least one jam was in a hole with two birds. The section ended in a hanging belay which was mega uncomfortable. I was hungry here but since it was a hanging belay, I didn’t want to ask Luke to get my sandwich out. So I delayed eating.

Epi pitch 11 - 160’ 5.7

Luke led up this section which was purportedly a 5.7 but he started thinking it was much harder and got a little spooked that he couldn’t finish the pitch, so he set a gear anchor. I got to him, and by this point, was pretty fatigued. I told him I’d finish the pitch. Fortunately it was only another 15-20 feet to the bolted anchor. When he arrived, I told him I needed to rest and eat.

So we did. And, hah - it turns out that he didn’t need to take the haul rope off of my back to get my sandwich anyways. I could have eaten hours earlier.

We also had our 5-hour energy drinks here. And, for me, that was instant awesome.

While finishing the lead on this pitch, I also felt so fatigued I wasn’t sure I could make it. So, the sandwich and the 5-hour energy drink really hit the spot. After that, I was feeling GREAT!

Epi pitch 12 (140’ 5.9), 13 (160’ 5.7)

I led the next two pitches. The original plan was for Luke to lead the 5.7 pitch but after his earlier scare on pitch 11, he wanted me to lead.

The top of pitch 12 was really pleasant. This was the last bolted anchor we had. And there was a bush with fragrant leaves on the ledge! That was lovely.

Fragrant bush

And the beautiful view

I also led the 5.7 next. It ended in a gear anchor which I placed at what I thought was the bottom of the ramps.

Epi ramps - pitches 14, 15, 16

Luke led the first bit of the ramps. To our surprise, there was a bolted anchor part way up. He used the bolts to top pitch 14. There were 3 bolts, and they looked new. I wonder if they were a recently installed rescue anchor. These were the last bolts we saw.

After that, I went a rope length while placing 2 pieces of gear before making a 3-piece anchor for pitch 15.

And then I stubbed my toe really bad. Fortunately I had some ibuprofen. Ow.

I led the next section, placing 2 pieces before getting just below the pine tree and running out of rope. So, I placed a few more pieces and we started simul-climbing. Once I got to the tree, I made a Conneticut Tree Hitch - - my second of the trip! But this one, like the previous on Frogland, I didn’t give myself enough space from the tree to be in a good position to belay. So, while Luke was practically running up the ramps, I was belaying at a crawl’s pace. It worked, but was slow.

My gear anchor atop p15

Pitch 16

We took this top out picture at 7:23 PM

The tree atop Epi at 7:23 PM

I would definitely do Epi again, that was great!

Epi hike off

It took us 3 hours to hike out. The first hour was light mainly from the set sun, but the last 2 hours were by headlamp only. There were always cairns but like usual sometimes hard to spot them. When it was dark and we had headlamps, many cairns or tree branches were marked with a small bit of reflective tape, so that was a big help.

We saw a black widow.

And again, the flora were pretty:

Epi stats

Climb took 14 hours. Car to car was 17.5 hours. So that’s about 3.5 hours to hike in/out, starting at 745pm, just before sunset. We got through the summit and past the next summit on the descent path before we needed headlamps. Unfortunately the full moon didn’t illuminate our path enough, so headlamps. Wake to back-at-hotel was 22 hours.



  • The Epi belay where I got to sit, there were lush plants next to me and the view was amazing.
  • The birds diving so fast down the cliffs, we could hear their zooms!
  • Saw and heard burros on the hike in, and heard burros bleating throughout the day!
  • Flora hiking out of Black Velvet Canyon
  • Could hear frogs on Frogland
  • Saw tadpoles in the canyon

Eat when you can

I delayed eating on Epi since I assumed the haul rope would be in the way on the hanging belay and we’d need to take that off to get to my sandwich. Next time, I’ll try to just ask Luke to try to get it out then, rather than waiting. Waiting put us at increased risk later on when I was over-fatigued.

Epi anchors

We used the two optional anchors from the Handren guide, but skipped the anchor at the base of the Elephants trunk while linking to the top of the Elephant’s trunk. So after the first optional anchor in Handren, the pitch numbers in this post are going to be one higher.

Epi training

There were numerous ways we prepared for Epi. Firstly, we went on 3 trips to scout and try chimneys in Red Rock.

I watched as many videos on Youtube and Mountain Project comments as I could to become familiar with the challenging parts and routefinding.

I think exercising legs with squats, or one of my favorites the shrimp squat, are plenty to make your legs strong enough for the chimneys.

And, this was my 8th trip to Red Rocks we do become increasingly comfortable with the rock the more we’re on it. The holds and cracks and friction become more intuitive. So, for some additional context, I’ve also done the following routes over the years:

My ticks in Red Rocks

And Luke’s been to Red Rocks more than me.

We knew the drive in.

We knew the hike in.

We knew part of the hike out (though still got a little lost on the Frogland descent after Epi).

We knew the first 4 pitches of Epi.

We finished other long all day routes in Red Rocks.

I’d been climbing my hardest routes ever at the Austin Bouldering Project in the prior year.

So, we were probably more prepared than others who try the route. But we’re also not the fastest! :D

Epi gear & supplies

We didn’t need the big bros, and we could have gotten by with one set of nuts.

I only drank 2L of water, so didn’t need the third on the route. And while we had water stashed in a cooler in the car and we certainly drank it. After the day of sandy dry air, I really wanted a Topo chico. We stopped at the first gas station and drank bubbly water. It was awesome.

We both had some sandwiches left over. But I still opted to go eat a steak and potatoes at the casino after we got back to the hotel.

Epi rope loop

My best guess with the rope loop was that it happened because the initial belaying started to the right while the climber came up to the belayer on the left. But, I’m not sure and given that kind of chimney is rare and we got it unlooped eventually, I’m not going to bother experimenting any further.


My life, my writing, and my interpretation of reality is influenced by my environment. So, here is some of what was on my mind while writing the post.

  • My friends are climbing Epi in a few months, so I want to make this information available to them!
  • I’ve been starting a garden in our backyard.
  • - economy, energy, ecology, human behavior, overshoot, climate change, planetary boundaries
  • Ninety Pound Rucksack podcast - climbing, skiing, US army’s first mountain division