Sour Mash 5.10a
Black Velvet Wall, Black Velvet Canyon
About the Climb
Sour Mash is a fantastic route in a great setting on the right side of Black Velvet Wall. This must-do climb offers a great mix of trad and bolts, with good exposure on solid rock. Sour Mash is predominantly a face climb with a few crack moves here and there, and we think that it provides more variety than Prince of Darkness. All the 5.10a crux sections are very well bolted, making Sour Mash a good route to break into the grade. But don't expect this to be a sport route!
Although Sour Mash is just as good as its busy neighbours Dream of Wild Turkeys (5.10a) and Prince of Darkness (5.10c), the climb is usually free of lines. The rappel route for Sour Mash is for the most part to the left of the climb and uses the Fiddler on the Roof (5.10d) belays, so if there are other parties ahead of you, they won't rap over you when they are finished. The last free hanging rappel over the huge arch is a great ending to the climb.
The sun exposure on the Black Velvet Wall depends strongly on the time of year. In early or late season, you can be in the shade all day, so be ready for cold temperatures. However, it can be sunny during the summer months. On a hot day, start early or, if you can climb fast, late in the arfternoon.
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.
There are no direct combinations possible from Sour Mash, but the Black Velvet Wall has many other great routes to fill your day. The most similar in grade and climbing is Dream of Wild Turkeys (5.10a), which is located on the left side of the arch. Dream of Wild Turkeys also has 7 pitches, so combined with Sour Mash it would make for a very long day. However, you can rap from Dream of Wild Turkeys at any belay.
For a shorter option, you should climb The Gobbler (5.10a), which has 3 fun pitches and is located just right of Dream of Wild Turkeys. You can also continue on Dream of Wild Turkeys after finishing the Gobbler if you have enough energy and daylight left.
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.
If you are for looking for something harder after warming up on Sour Mash, try the popular Prince of Darkness (5.10c). The Prince of Darkness is a face climb on good edges, but all belays are hanging. You can rap down at any point on the route, so you could only climb part of the route if you wanted to, although the crux is on the last pitch.
Most of the routes on Black Velvet wall offer a similar type of climbing, so if you liked Sour Mash, try any of the following classics: The Gobbler (5.10a), Dream of Wild Turkeys (5.10a), or Prince of Darkness (5.10c). A little further up canyon lies another excellent route, Sick for Toys (5.10d), with a stellar mix of slab, bolts and thin cracks.
Outside Black Velvet Canyon, you can try Unimpeachable Groping (5.10b) for sustained climbing on crimpers.