Prince of Darkness 5.10c
Black Velvet Wall, Black Velvet Canyon
About the Climb
This popular route goes straight up the steep and imposing Black Velvet Wall. It's a generously bolted face climb with some gear required here and there, so it's a good choice for leaders with limited trad experience. The route goes straight up the face on positive edges and provides a great challenge for the 5.10- leader.
Prince of Darkness is continuous and sustained in nature, with almost every pitch checking in at 5.10-. A short but really good 5.10c crux section on thin fingers and slick feet finishes things off on the last pitch. Note that all the belays are hanging and fairly uncomfortable. This route will certainly test your foot pain tolerance as well as your overall harness comfort level...
Black Velvet Canyon is located outside the Scenic Drive area and this means that you don't need to pay the entrance fee and there's no late parking problems. It is accessed by a dirt road that can be a little rough in places. A 4WD is not really needed, but it helps. A 2WD will make it, but extra clearance makes it easier. Be especially careful after big rain storms.
From the SR 159 and SR 160 intersection, go west for 4.7 miles. Look for a dirt pull-out and road on your right. Zero your counter when leaving SR 160. You'll pass a large gravel parking on the left, and the road will turn to dirt. Keep going on this. After 1.1 mile you'll see a fork, but keep going straight. The driving 'crux' is at about 1.5 mile. After 1.8 miles, a gate will be blocking the road and you must go left. Continue on this for another 0.4 mile, where several parking options exist. Note that camping is not allowed here and violators will get a ticket.
Most people climb the route and rap off after 6 pitches, but it is possible to keep going up for 3 additional pitches on Dream of Wild Turkeys (5.10a). We added these pitches on our topo of Prince of Darkness. From there, it's also possible to keep going all the way to the top of Black Velvet Peak, making it a long day and adding a level of adventure similar to Epinephrine(5.9).
If you rappel down after the 6 pitches of Prince of Darkness, the Black Velvet Wall still provides many options to add some amazing pitches to your day. You can try Dream of Wild Turkeys (5.10a), just right of Prince of Darkness. Because all the belays are bolted, you can rappel down from any anchor. However, Dream of Wild Turkeys shares the first pitch with Prince of Darkness. Alternatively, you can climb The Gobbler (5.10a), which has 3 fun pitches and is located just right of Dream of Wild Turkeys. We also added these pitches on our topo of this route. You can also continue on Dream of Wild Turkeys after finishing the Gobbler if you have enough energy and daylight left.
Another option is Sour Mash (5.10a), located just to the right of the huge arch. It has 7 pitches, and except for the first belay, all belays are bolted. However, because of the line of ascent, it is difficult to rappel before the third belay.
If you're looking for something a little easier, try Refried Brains (5.9). Although Refried Brains goes to the top of the wall, most climbers only climb the first 4 pitches and then rap down. The 3rd pitch is the best, so if you are pressed for time, it's possible to only do the 3 first pitches.
Most routes on Black Velvet Wall offer a similar type of climbing, so if you liked Prince of Darkness, try any of the following classics: The Gobbler (5.10a), Dream of Wild Turkeys (5.10a), Yellow Brick Road (5.10b) (variation of Dream of Wild Turkeys), or Sour Mash (5.10a). A little further up canyon lies another excellent route, Sick for Toys (5.10d), with a stellar mix of slab, bolts and thin cracks. Give this one a try, you won't be disapointed.
Outside Black Velvet Canyon, you can try Unimpeachable Groping (5.10b) for similar sustained climbing on edges. Alternatively, you can go to Eagle Wall in Oak Creek Canyon, which is home to 2 amazing ultra classic climbs with lots of face and crack climbing. Eagle Dance (5.10c, A0) is silimar in grade than Prince of Darkness but is more varied. This route has a short bolt ladder, but you can climb the 5 pitches below the aid section and rappel back down if you want. Another option is the famous Levitation 29 (5.11c), although this is quite a step up from Prince of Darkness.