Posts Tagged ‘Flatirons’

Five months since I last rock climbed I agree to head to the Flatirons with Pete. During the drought of climbing I kept saying I’d be back on rock eventually and figured that “eventually” might start with a climb of the Fatiron. Two years ago we did this same climb and had a blast, this year I got us lost on the approach and we scrambled a few hundred feet on the “Forgotten Flatiron” before figuring out where we weren’t.

Having at least obtained a higher vantage point, and gotten a warm-up, we hiked back down and south to the Fatiron and easily scrambled up the north-side approach to the start of the route. I remembered the first pitch as being the crux (a thin crack with enough, if not plentiful, protection) and set off on lead with some trepidation. Slower and less confident than 2 years ago, I still got up and ran out most of the rope to an cramped belay stance that owed it’s minor “ledge” attribute to a dying bush. Pete followed with much more vigor than I’d displayed (has he been climbing in the gym these last few weeks?) and joined me on the bush.

Relieved to have the “crux” done I still found my climbing was tenuous and unconfident as I tackled pitch two. That the wind was picking up did little for my nerves and I belayed at a good sized ledge to make up for the bushy stance I’d previously parked out on.

Once again Pete cruised up the pitch and handed me the rack of gear I’d placed. I recalled pitch 3 being runout, but easy with a sea of jugs. Unfortunately, I headed too far left – up a water-polished mini-gully with harder moves and little pro. I was shaken by the time I reached the summit. At least the wind seemed more mild on top and the sun did something to restore my spirits while Pete climbed up to this eastern summit. Lunch helped even more, but I was considering bailing on the last of the climb.

After a short scramble and rappel, I was wavering in my commitment to bail. Looking up at the last two pitches to the western summit I was still having trouble summoning the psyche to continue leading and somehow talked Pete into doing his first trad lead. For better or worse, Pete set off with the rack and tackled the less-protectable-than-I-recalled pitch with more poise than I was likely to muster today. Fiddling with cams in odd spots he set a few good pieces and several less-than-ideal. I climbed up to his tree belay, helped reduce the cluster of his anchor then figured I should lead the last pitch – a pitch that turned out to be really short, really easy and easily protectable. Humm, maybe this should have been Pete’s first trad lead.

One last rappel, then some bushwhacking around the north side of the formation and a hike back towards the Shadow Canyon cutoff trail and we were out of the shadow of the Fatiron. When I got home I stuffed my climbing gear back in a box where it should stay until I’ve really got my motivation back.

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Green Mountain

With roughly two feet of snow in the last 36 hours I knew Tara and I were in for a bit more than we’d counted on when we stuck with our plan of hiking up Green Mountain.

A few people had been out during and since the storm, but Gregory Canyon certainly wasn’t a well-packed trail.

A few flakes continued to fall from the sky, but our biggest impediment to staying dry was the random zephyrs that cleared trees of their snow load.

We took a breather near the Realization Point/Ranger Trail junction where the trails got more serious about gaining elevation.

By the time we reached the 4-way trail junction just west of Green Mountain’s summit the snow was nearly 3 feet deep and the trail much less traveled. We were rewarded with a bit of sunlight however.

It had taken us about 3.5 hours to reach the summit and we didn’t stay long at all. The much shorter (and more traveled) Saddle Rock trail provided us a descent route.

The most rewarding views came lower down as the backsides of the First Flatiron and the Sunset Flatironette came into view.

The descent went much quicker, only 1.5 hours, but we had to be much more careful with our footing and tired legs.

Complete photo album

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Pete had been out of commission for climbing for a couple months now but was finally able to get back on the rock. A few easy flatiron routes seemed like the ideal plan for the day. After a short hike and bushwhack we arrived at the base of the Front Porch and found the start of the two-pitch Tiptoe Slab (5.3) route.

A little run-out, the climbing was still easy and my only complication was finding an adequate crack for a belay anchor. Rumor is there is one bolt on this first pitch, but I didn’t find it (I did find an unneeded bolt on pitch two – not far from a protect-able crack). Pitch two was even easier and we did the short rappel from a tree on the west side while looking ahead at the Lost and Back Porch formations.

For Lost Porch we dropped our packs and the rope near the toe of the north east ridge and scrambled up in our approach shoes to tag the summit before reversing our route and hiking uphill to Back Porch.

Finding the 2-foot arch that marked the start of the East Face route, I led up through the layback “roof” and to a slightly shaded belay to combine the first two pitches in one. One more longer pitch led through the short roof crux (5.6) and on to the summit.

Two rappels brought us down, with the second being a fairly awkward slung arch that you start on top off before reverse-mantling to get onto the rappel.

It turned out to be a perfect weather day with a chance for me to tick another one of Roach’s Top Ten Flatiron routes (East Face on Back Porch marks my 7th of his 10 select routes).

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Lightly loaded and partner-less, I left the Chautauqua trailhead a bit before 8am and followed the Mesa Trail south until I stopped following the Mesa Trail. The trail kept going, but I needed to head uphill and west to reach the base of The Regency, and the El Camino Royale route. The third class rating is a bit of a joke, that or the way I went wasn’t the road of royalty, but the path of jesters. The route was fun regardless of whether or not I was on it. A short downclimb and scramble through some boulders took me to the base of the East Face route of the Royal Arch. This was pretty straight forward Class 4. For better or worse, no one below seemed to see me on my giant pedestal.

From the arch I headed further south, but stayed too high to efficiently reach the base of Anomaly, and bushwacked down the north side of the formation. This was the least memorable route of the day, 4th class, rather licheny and uh, I don’t remember any other details. Oh, there was a dead tree at the base. Did I mention the lichen?

The Buckets route (Class 4) on Ameoboid was a definite step up in quality. The whole east fast of Ameoboid was stripped with a line of pockets and was just a blast to climb. Unfortunately, the route doesn’t top out on a real summit. I walked the short canyon between the north and south summits, then looped south around the formation and back to Royal Arch to jog most of the trails back to Chautauqua.

I took very few photos, instead I carried a small HD camera (GoPro) with a mini tripod and set it up where I could on the routes. I ended up repeating many short sections of the scrambles to setup the camera, back down, then climb back up and retrieve the camera. The results of those efforts are below.

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Originally, I’d have been rock climbing w/ Pete today, but after spraining an ankle he was out. Gary, however, was interested in a trip to the flatirons, so we made the long approach from Chautauqua past the Third Flatiron and wandered around until we think we located the formation “Willy B”. Gary got us started with the first pitch.

He hadn’t trad climbed yet this year, so he turned over the sharp end to me for the rest of the pitches – never mind that my fingers had gone white in the wind and cool of the morning. At least it was pretty easy climbing. Due to rope-drag I stopped my pitch at a half rope-length just below the prominent left-facing dihedral.

By now the sun was out and I was warming up. Our third pitch went up the dihedral, then across the face to a ramp on the south side. Here, I was confused by the directions and climbed the slick ramp with downward-sloping holds way too high looking for a piton. I found the piton, but finding other solid gear was difficult and I didn’t trust the anchor I was trying to build behind hollow-sounding blocks.

After digging out the route description I decided I wanted to be lower, so had to downclimb and was getting seriously unnerved. Eventually, I reached the base of the ramp at the overhang and found a few solid cam placements and yelled “off-belay”.

Gary arrived at the belay and suddenly remembered he’d done this route before and hated it. Well, we’re committed now. Screwing my courage to the sticking place, I went up about halfway to my earlier highpoint and made a few committing crux moves to overcome the south-face and arrive on the lower angle east face. Typical flatirons slab climbing followed to the summit.

Gary managed the climb well, but said he couldn’t imagine leading that crux move. Pulling onto the summit we couldn’t help but notice the increased winds and clouds and a bit of moisture spitting down on us.

After completing the rappel down we hiked back to the base to gather our packs and realize that it was after 2pm already.

We hated to walk in this far for just one climb, and I suggested we have a look at Green Mountain Pinnacle, which Pete and I had done just a couple weeks before.

Thankfully, the sun seemed to be re-emerging, and it looked like we’d get a weather window to repeat the West Chimney route. This time I loaded up with a smaller rack of just the pieces I’d need and freed up the back of my harness for the rubbing that would soon begin.

Gary looked a little apprehensive about this one, but it certainly went smoother for me the second time around. I reached the anchors and put him on belay.

After getting over the initial, tight part of the chimney, he seemed to enjoy the climb.

While I belayed, I also admired the view back at Willy B and the route we’d done on that formation.

After joining me at the anchor, we rappelled and started the hike out.

Complete photo album

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Seal Rock

Between the congressional dithering and rain in Utah, I decided to put a National Park-visiting trip on hold and enjoy some more great weather locally. Luke, Ryan, Pete and I gathered in Boulder for a trip up a Flatiron. Seal Rock was our plan, especially since none of us had been to the summit yet (Ryan had twice got stormed off in after-work attempts).

We didn’t follow the most ideal approach, but still located the base of the East Face, Right route and decided we’d climb as two separate teams, Luke and I, then Ryan leading with Pete on the second rope. Given the nature of the climbing, the theme was to keep going until you’ve only got a few feet of rope left, then look for anchor possibilities.

Luke claimed to be rusty, but had no problems following these first two easy pitches.

For the third pitch I led off across the flat shoulder then with only half the rope remaining started up the finger crack. In retrospect, I should have made a short pitch or to the base of the finger crack so it could have been climbed completely in one go.

Still, this section of the climb ranks as one of my top pitches in the flatirons. Solid, fun, lots of pro, a nice crack and plentiful face holds. Others seemed to be enjoying it as well.

Another short pitch finished up the finger crack and I stopped at the rappel anchors (30 feet from the summit) to keep communication hassle free.

Luke and I completed the last 30 foot pitch and relaxed on the summit waiting for Pete and Ryan, who wisely moved their belay to take in the full finger crack in one pitch.

After hanging out on the summit for a bit we reversed the last short pitch to the rappel anchors and crammed the 4 of us in the vicinity of the anchor to ready the two-rope rappel.

Squeezing myself and my small backpack out of the slot I got out on the overhanging north face.

Looking down over 160 feet to the ground below was a little exciting.

Everyone else completed the rappel and the ropes pulled down with a bit of effort.

We decided to forgo any other climbs and head directly to Southern Sun.

Complete photo album

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Following a short drive up to Boulder’s NCAR parking lot, I hit the trails and left the few people behind who were also out this early as I turned up the Mallory Cave Trail. I’d never been to this part of the flatirons before and had a lot of rock formations to sort out and get to know.

Passing by Der Zerkle and Dinosaur Rock, I headed south on a faint trail to the southeast base of the formation known as Der Freischutz. The South Ridge was supposed to be a 4th class route to the summit. I went ahead and donned a helmet and switched to some climbing shoes, both actions I’m grateful for as the route seemed at least 5th class.

To start I headed up and left of a natural rock arch, then further along the ridge. The rock quality varied, with some spots showing signs of recent fractures and making me a little nervous about the holds I was trusting. Partway up I hit what I’d later decide was the crux, maybe I should have stayed further left?

A really enjoyable part of the ridge came later when I got into a solid water channel with plenty of pockets. Okay, this part felt 4th class.

Reaching the summit, I found two blocks of about equal height.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the rappel anchors (which I later saw were hidden a bit off the ridge crest). I certainly didn’t want to downclimb the whole route I’d just done, so I ended up going down the slabby 5.1 variation to “North Vee” which had just a little snow and some cold rock.

Warming up in the sun and glad to be off Der Freischutz, I decided to walk over and check out the “walk off” route up the Red Devil Formation.

Climbing in my approach shoes and helmet I decided the “walk off” was probably class 3. But there were a couple nice looking routes up the south side I’d like to come back and climb with a partner.

Heading back down the Mallory Cave Trail I stopped below Der Freischutz and looked for the West Face (5.0) route up to the top of Dinosaur Rock. The route description was confusing by mixing up “left” for “right” in describing the spatial relationship between a skinny tree and a dihedral, but I eventually figured out where the line must go. However, I decided to dry a variation left of the tree and dihedral which also seemed about 5.0 – but probably harder to downclimb easily than the more standard route.


Once I hit a flat ledge I had to examine the last 15 feet of slabby climbing for the easiest route and carefully climb up to the ridge crest and shuttle along the top to the "peak".


Carefully I reversed my steps then went down the regular version of the West Face route and rejoined my pack for the return hike.

Complete photo album

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I was going to the Flatirons, I’m not sure what I’m doing, I’m going to Boulder Canyon, nope – I’m headed to the Flatirons again. So went my planning as partners bailed then came available again. Jeremy was still nursing a shoulder injury, so we decided on the easy (5.3) Stairway to Heaven route in the Flatirons.

We parked at NCAR and hiked up into Skunk Canyon and eventually ID’d the base of Ridge One. Jeremy flaked out the rope while I racked up and shared some “send cookies” (spicy oatmeal raisin). I led up the first pitch, skirting the overhang then hitting the ridge crest and had Jeremy simul-climb a bit so I could reach a comfy pine-needle-cushioned belay spot.

We hiked a bit through a mini-forest to move the belay and I started up more easy rock rock and hit another little forest for a belay. I guess I couldn’t complain about the 70 meter ropes today.

The third pitch got a little more interesting until fading into a sea of knobs as I passed the “Like Heaven” sub-summit of the ridge and setup a semi-cozy belay.

While belaying Jeremy up, I watched some other climbers on “Satan’s Slab” (aka Ridge Two) who seemed to have taken my original idea of doing a Halloween-themed route. They were either on routes Satan’s Slab, Enchanted Devil, or 666.

The third pitch was our shortest, as I went over another sub-summit, through a few trees then partly up the start of the last steep to stop where I could watch Jeremy tackle the route.

I found the final pitch to the summit to be one of the harder and more-run-out portions of the route. I did stray onto the harder north side of the ridge where there was more protection available then pulled up just shy of the summit to belay.

Jeremy followed as he had for the prior 4 rope lengths.

I offered him the lead on the last 70 feet of climbing over the summit and down to a rappel tree.

Then we setup for the 60 foot rappel back to the ground and I let Jeremy go first so I could switch back into my approach shoes. My toes started to thank me.

To descend, we headed between the Ridge One and Hobo formations and stayed east of Ridge One for the whole descent back to the trail. My toes rescinded their thanks as I bashed them on the step and loose descent.

Complete photo album

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After doing the Y Couloir on Pikes Peak, I needed something of a rest day. Somewhat easy climbing in the flatirons was my choice and I carpooled up to Boulder with Lewis. Lewis was new to trad climbing so I decided to start easy with the Fifth Flatiron.

After hiking the Chautauqua and Royal Arch trails to their terminus (I promised Lewis we would indeed do some rock climbing today), we then followed a fainter climber’s trail to the base of the Fifth. I placed a couple pieces of pro at ground level and showed Lewis how to remove the gear then I started up the first pitch. I probably started a little further right of the “standard” start, but soon found a left tending crack that I took to get me closer to the southern edge. I stopped to belay with only a few feet of rope left and waited for Lewis to rocket up the pitch.

His first trad pitch completed, Lewis arrived grinning at the belay and he handed over the pro he’d cleaned and flaked the rope for me to lead pitch 2. I watched two parties arrive at the base and get ready to climb as I started up the easy climbing to a little headwall that became the top of pitch 2. Lewis was getting into the swing of things and we had another fairly quick belay transition before I launched off on the third and final pitch. The end of that pitch was a run-out ridge scramble to the summit with a fair amount of exposure.

The summit anchor was a single large eye bolt, so I backed that up with a #3 cam and pre-rigged Lewis’s rappel setup since it was his first rappel in a little while. After I descended, Lewis removed the backup and joined me on the ground.

Looking just to the northwest, the formation called Schmoe’s Nose was calling us. In particular, the East Face (North Nostril) route and it’s harder rating of 5.7 seemed a logical step up. The bushwhack over to the formation was one clue that Schmoe’s Nose doesn’t get climbed much.

After scrambling up to a notch I led a lichen-covered pitch to a rock trench. While belaying Lewis up, I watched the two teams who’d just reached the summit of the Fifth.

The second pitch improved a bit in quality – or it was just higher than the pine trees so I didn’t have piles of those slick little needles on all the holds. After traversing into the shade of the “nose” I setup a belay and Lewis quickly scampered up.

The 3rd pitch was the main attraction, a steep climb right up the nose using several wedged blocks (or boogers) to easier slab climbing and the summit above. The anchor on top was a tied off cap-stone with some sun-faded webbing and cord. Once Lewis arrived with my cordelette, I sacrificed it to the anchor so I’d have something more trustworthy to bet my life on.

Again, I pre-rigged Lewis’s rappel before stepping off to the west and then provided a fireman’s belay for Lewis’s descent.

After coiling the rope, we scrambled back along the north side of Schmoe’s Nose to reach our packs. Then we traversed back towards the Fifth Flatiron and did some exploratory bushwhacking and scrambling along its north side then through a little cave to the north side of the Upper Tangen Tower and down that way to come out between the Upper and Lower Tangen Towers. From here the terrain eased up and we had a great view of the Royal Arch and quickly reached its trail for the hike back to Chautauqua Park.

Complete photo album

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After two weeks away from Colorado I was thankful to be back home and have a great weather day. Pete and I decided to tackle the Fatiron, a rock formation just north of the Maiden near Boulder.

We knew most of the approach from our climb of the Maiden a month prior, then we just headed up a gully and eventually decided to scramble up the rocks to the base of the climb.

For some reason, I though we were a little lower down and not actually at the start of the 5th class climbing, so we did some extra scrambling when we probably should have broken out the rope earlier.

After reaching a flat-ish spot, we switched shoes and got out the ropes and hardware. I traversed right to reach the regular start and began up a nice finger crack only occasionally marred by bushes. Pete followed and reached my belay at a stout tree.

The next pitch had a fun bulge and plenty of easier climbing.

I found pitch three to be easy, but very run out. I ended up threading more potholes than placing cams.

Pete arrived at the summit and we took a short break to enjoy the beautiful day.

After scrambling west off the summit we reached a tree and its rappel anchor to get us to the saddle.

To the south I watched a pair of climbers start the traverse along the west ridge to the north side route on the Maiden.

I started up our forth pitch and was able to walk the first 30 feet or so without using my hands. Above the climbing got marginally harder so I reverted to all fours until I reached a nice belay stance.

The last pitch was run-out in spots, but pretty easy and I just barely reached the summit in one rope length.

Pete climbed up and we watched the climbers on The Maiden reach the tree belay.

Then we moved to the west side of the summit and found the last rappel anchor.

We descended the north side of the Fatiron, then scrambled back over the saddle at the base of our route to meet up with our earlier path.

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