| Back in Colorado, Time to Climb
Routes: Freeway, Second Flatiron; Far Right East Face to North Arete, First Flatiron
Gain: Second Flatiron: ~800 feet on rock, ~1,450 feet total; First Flatiron: 1,350 feet on rock, ~2,000 feet total
Participants: stevevets689 (both climbs), Tweak (Second Flat), shanahan96 (First Flat)
Note about the elevations: I don't know what the summit elevations are of either the First or Second Flatirons, only that they are both 7,000 something feet, but that is not what is important about these climbs.
The Third, Second, and First Flatirons from left to right
Three weeks near the Atlantic is enough to push me back into the hills with booster thrusters attached to my heels. On my second full day back in Colorado, I was already headed to Boulder with my friend Josh (Tweak) for a Flatiron climb. Our destination was a route called Freeway on the Second Flatiron, which goes at class 4 to easy 5... Josh and my first technical route together. I had already climbed it once with Jamie (shanahan96) the summer before, so I had some knowledge of the fairly straightforward route to begin with, but this would be my first traditional lead.
We started hiking up the Chautauqua Trail a little after 9:00 AM, talking about various topics while looking up at the First and Second Flatirons. We followed the trail marked as leading to the Third Flatiron which swings you by the base of the Second en route, and arrived at the Second a little less than an hour from when we started (I think). Here we dropped our packs, took some swigs of water, and put on our harnesses and helmets. We tied into opposite ends of the rope, I took all the protection, Josh put me on belay, and I started off on my first lead. I climbed up to a tree, clipped the rope to it via a sling, and continued climbing. From there I had a hard time finding good placements, and finally settled for a single piece of pro for a belay station to bring Josh up. This would not be the first time we settled for sub-standard safety measures on the climb, but considering that Freeway is pretty much easy enough for either of us to free-solo we were okay with being a little lax.
Looking up the first pitch of Freeway. I climbed towards the tree and beyond it trending right slightly
Looking down from my first belay station
I led the next pitch as well, which I considered the hardest pitch of the climb since it had a debatable class 5 move in it. This time I had a tree anchor to help me belay Josh up. He arrived pretty quickly, and I turned the lead over to him. His pitch was much easier but much more fun, and brought us up onto Freeway's big rib which would take us all the way to the top edge of the Flatiron. When I arrived at Josh's belay station, I was completely shown up by a three point anchor. Show off.
Josh on lead, Pitch 3
Example of the steepness
Climbing on the Rib
Josh making his way up behind me
From here on we climbed unroped. The rib provides wonderful third and fourth class, fluid climbing. We continued up at a fast pace until we arrived at the famous "jump move." This is where the rib peters out into a rock jutting into space, about six feet above the rest of the rock, and the supposed best way is to jump the gap. Josh jumped right over without much thought and apparently it was fine, but, being a pansy, I decided to sit off the left side a little further back and then hop off. Either way works.
Approaching the "Jump move"
Looking back at the Jump
We kept climbing unroped all the way up to the edge of the Flatiron. From here we could have climbed one more exposed pitch back out onto the face which would have brought us around 50 feet higher to a point where you can step off the rock onto a trail, but weather was starting to look questionable and I didn't feel like spending a lot of time getting ready to lead another pitch, so we set up a rappel and ditched there. We then quickly hiked down the switchbacking trail between the First and Second Flatirons and arrived back at the car in very little time.
Josh nearing where we topped out
Looking up at the First on our way out. You can see dots of people scattered around the face, and one on the North Arete.
On the way down, I got a call from Jamie saying that conditions did not warrant a climb up the Dreamweaver Couloir on Mount Meeker, which was our original plan. Instead, he said, we should climb the First Flatiron via the North Arete. Okay... Another day on the Flatirons, hmm... Sure, why not? Thank goodness that Bent Gate Mountaineering in Golden had size 14 climbing shoes to rent.
Looking down the first pitch
Jamie and I got started at the Chautauqua Trail at around 9:00 AM (sound familiar?) and arrived at the base of the First Flatiron sometime after 10. We then hiked up around the right side a little ways to get to a good starting point which would bring us up to the Arete's base. Then we got ready to climb and scrambled onto the rock to find a good belay station to start us off. Since Jamie is intending on leading the Upper Exum Ridge of Grand Teton later this year, he insisted on leading every pitch of this climb in order to practice. So, up he went. His first lead brought us to a small tree in a slight depression in the rock. From there he climbed left into a gully and up to another couple of trees. Much of the climbing was using underclings in order to be able to just smear up the rock; basically the definition of slab climbing. Finally, the last pitch brought us to the base of the Arete. It was slightly after noon at this point, and we seemed to be making good time.
Looking down the gully
Me, climbing in the gully
Jamie leading the climb up the gully
After a lunch and take-your-shoes-off break, we started up the Arete. The first pitch brought us up a steep section and back onto the face with already vastly increased exposure. I had never been on terrain that was anything like this and was already really spooked. Even after pitch one, I was already thinking of asking Jamie if we could bail, but something in my head knew I could continue and I gave my OK.
Looking up the first pitch of the Arete. Exposure galore around the corner
Me climbing on the Arete
The next pitch brought us over the "crux" of the route, which is a bulge that make for a slightly overhanging move. I consider this move to be overrated, but that might be because of my size. I felt a little better after the second pitch. From there I believe there were a couple short pitches in order to keep our belay stances good and our communication clear, but eventually we had to deal with a series of "teeth" to climb over before arriving at the true summit of the First.
We decided that the actual crux of the route was climbing up the first tooth, since it's a bit smoother than a lot of the other climbing on the route. Also, belaying became more difficult here since there was a lot of rope drag, as the rope had to go over a tooth or two to get to the other person. We slowly made our way over to the top of the last tooth before the summit and from there it was a fairly easy scramble down and back up to the summit of the First.
Typical North Arete climbing
Looking back on the last tooth before the summit
It was already after 5:00 PM since we had been moving fairly slowly on the Arete (which was entirely my fault) so we didn't stay too long on the top. We gathered the rope up, took some pictures, signed the register, and got ready to rappel. There are two eyebolts sticking out of the very highest rock so we passed the rope through to the middle point and threw both ends down the west side of the summit. We weren't sure if they hit the ground, but there happened to be someone down there who we asked to check for us. He said we were good, so Jamie rappelled down, and I followed. It's a nice and easy rappel with a freehanging finish, adding some excitement.
It only took us around 20 minutes to get back to the base of the First, and maybe another half hour to get back to the car. Amazing how quick trails make things.
So the summer begins with a couple of technical rock climbs. Now I'm at my home in the San Luis Valley, wondering when the current weather pattern will change back to sunny so I can climb in my home range, the Sangre de Cristo. Hopefully that's sooner rather than later.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):