Peak(s):  Frontporch - 6,750
The Hobo - 7,000
Date Posted:  05/23/2021
Date Climbed:   05/22/2021
Author:  daway8
 The Hobo & the Frontporch: easy Flatirons   

This is now the 3rd in my series of Flatiron trip reports - continuing with some easy class 4 routes and pushing a little into class 5. (For the previous ones see Flatirons Intro UPDATED and Der Zerkle: Southern Squeeze & Sunnyside Two)

Included in this report will be:

  • Frontporch: Easy-ish but fun class 5 slanted chimney followed by short ledge crawl on the way to the summit - otherwise mostly class 4. Alternate class 3 terrain nearby.
  • Hill Billy Rock: Preview of this formation (Gerry Roach claimed there's a class 4 route up the middle, it wasn't feeling class 4 to me and there was a threat of rain so I skipped on to the Hobo).
  • The Hobo: Delightful class 4 Flatironette with epic exposure on the tiny little easy to get to summit. *** SWEETEST FLATIRON SUMMIT YET***
  • Reference to some nearby sport climbing routes with a picture or two.

Look for large, bolded section headers to quickly jump to items of interest.

DISCLAIMER: Standard little warning: Rock climbing is inherently dangerous and while you'll see a few references in this report to things that are "comparatively safe" and routes that are "easy" please be aware that people have died here and others have been seriously injured. A slight change in conditions, a slight difference in skill level or choice of footwear or the briefest lapse of caution can all have enormous impacts on your experience here. It's for sure a great place but do take appropriate caution!

Closures: Please respect all wildlife closures - to the best of my knowledge the routes described here are currently open year-round but there are closure areas nearby (see overview maps below and signs on-site for more info).

Motivation

Why bother with the Flatirons and why post on a 14ers website? As I've said before, this is an awesome training ground and fantastic alternative for when the weather up high is iffy or when you just don't feel like wading through that springtime slush. It's a great place to build up confidence and increase your comfort level on exposed climbing prior to tackling harder class 3/4 ridges or those handful of class 5 routes going up to various summits.

Overview Maps

One of the best resources I've found for navigating to the different features in the Flatirons is this awesome website: https://maps.bouldercolorado.gov/wildlife-closures

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Sorry for the poor res upload - the website images are super crisp - I may try to recapture later with better resolution.


To get a map like this (which shows up in much better resolution than this snapshot) you'll need to click the 4 boxes at the top right and select the 2018 Imagery basemap for some stunning aerial imagery. This originally showed up better on mobile than my pc but with the above link the feature names and pink shaded regions for wildlife closures seem to show up properly. In theory you can access this on-site and highlight your current location but that feature doesn't seem to work well for me.

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GAIA snapshot of my Flatiron tracks with some added labels.


GAIA also has a reasonably detailed map of the main trails and some large features. If you add the slope shading layer you can pick out most of the features. The Freeway, Royal Arch, etc are easy to access from the Chautauqua trailhead but note that is a small & popular (=crowded) trailhead.

The other routes I've been doing recently are most easily accessed from the NCAR trailhead with its enormous free parking lot. On the trip to The Hobo I was able to connect across to the Amoeboid and thus form a link between trailheads - so it is feasible to reach, for example, the Royal Arch from NCAR but that's not the most efficient route by any means.


Frontporch

Really, really liked this formation as a fantastic starter one. Has class 3/4/5 options – might possibly even be able to do class 3 to summit. I did mostly class 4 up the water groove in the middle then around and up the descent of the East Face Center route - described as either class 5.0 (Simon Testa) or class 4 (Gerry Roach). Sort of a toss-up depending on how you do it – it was more class 5-vy the way I did it.

Whole bunch of options for easy routes that can be modified, backed off, linked up, etc and has walk off option on the back and potentially the sides. Very nice views from the summit.

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Easy class 4 start up the center of Frontporch.
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Geo modeling the start of the Frontporch.


Started up East Face Center route but then water drainage to the left caught my eye. Hadn’t been on steep rock for a while – was feeling ok about going up but less confident on coming back down and route description called for an awkward 5.0 downclimb. So I opted to back down a bit then slide over to the water drainage and went straight up easy class 3 rock with maybe a class 4 move here and there.

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Rough sketch of my approximate route


Be warned that there are a few spots here and there with a loose, thin plating of rock on top that can break off. This can be avoided with a little care.

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Beware of a few spots of loose sheets of rock on top.


Just follow the water drainage up - some of this is worn pretty smooth but with a little care you can find decent holds.

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Coming up the center drainage.
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Looking up.
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Looking back down.
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Tons of options around but I did a slightly awkward step over to head for the low point at the back of the formation.
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The awkward step over.


Plenty of relatively easy options (class 5.0, give or take) around but opted to stay in lowest part of the water groove. This led to an awesome looking slanted chimney type feature.

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Coming up on what I'll call the slanted chimney.
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Although the surrounding rock to either side was probably easy class 5 or less, this was too cool to pass up!


I was going to go up the left side under the overhangs but there were not very good holds and it had some loose dirt/debris. So instead took right side up enormous solid holds (some looked questionable but everything I tried held firm). Foot holds were a little more sparse – often just relied on friction against the slab with my climbing shoes, making sure my hand holds were bomber enough to take my entire weight if ever my foot should slip (never did).

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Tried the left side but it was slick and wasn't sure if the rock was solid. Right side was very doable.


I'm never sure how to put a class rating on routes but found someone on Mountain Project mention this and call it "relevantly harder than 5.0 with little good pro." I'd say that's an accurate description.

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Later found this on Mountain Project https://www.mountainproject.com/route/105751699/east-face-center


On the way down I was more confident going down the slanted chimney - enough so to pause and take the below action shots.

But even so, I had been positioned such to be able to hold all my weight with my arms since my feet sometimes had nothing but friction to hold me there. When I finally placed my foot a on flat-ish spot for the first time in a few minutes I felt all sorts of tension, which I didn't even realize I was feeling, suddenly drain away - I guess my body was more uneasy than my mind this time around.

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Action shot on the way down.
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Looking back up during the descent.


I could maybe have climbed straight to summit from the top of the slanted chimney (I dubbed this the Front Door) but it was at least low class 5. Opted instead to look for the “awkward 5.0” downclimb route that Testa described. I was very glad in the end that I did it first as a climb instead of a descent.

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Looking back down the upper portion of the slanted chimney.


I didn't have any idea what awaited me at the top of this route and so I was pleasantly surprised to find an easy walk-off that also led quickly and easily to what's described as the awkward 5.0 downclimb for the East Face Center route of the Frontporch in Simon Testa's pocket sized guide book.

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At the top there's an easy walk off to allow you to either hike back down or step over to the summit path.
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Aim for the dead tree (if it's still there) to head to the summit.


For the ledge portion I did a full sprawl crawl – could have probably stepped/climbed up without using the ledge (except as a handhold) but wasn’t 100% on being able to reverse that move so I did the ledge crawl instead (maybe 6 or 7 foot long ledge or so - see squiggly line in 2nd photo below). From there it was an easy walk up to the summit.

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Summit is up to the right of the dead tree.
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This is the awkward ledge crawl - this spot is either class 4 or 5.0 depending on how you do it and who you ask.
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Swing around past the dead tree and step up to the summit.
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View from summit.
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Looking down the east face - doesn't look bad at all - could probably keep it class 4 coming up or at least low class 5.

Started going down to my left (facing out east to Boulder) = really easy class 3 terrain. Started to see if I could bail off the side. Went down below a cool circular opening in rock and almost got down - had maybe 15ft descent of natural rock ledge steps but it was covered in a bunch of flakes of that mossy/moldy lichen stuff that would flake off and probably make it real slick so I didn’t try. Dubbed it the Side Door on my GPX tracks.


Getting to Hill Billy Rock and The Hobo

The route over to Hill Billy Rock, The Hobo and other such formations is a little bit of a chore but good for keeping those leg muscles in shape for 13ers/14ers. Initially it's just your typical Flatiron stroll but then you work your way up a hefty hill coming out of Skunk Canyon.

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Hill Billy Rock is the large triangle front and center of the rocks in the distance. You can just make out the tiny Hobo to the left.
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Looking back along the route over - in the distance you can see the trail going to the water tank, which is just barely visible in the trees.


To get there follow the description in Simon Testa's excellent guide (The Best Flatiron Scrambles) for the route Stairway to Heaven (class 5.3) which could also be done along with this if desired. We veered off before the Stairway to Heaven.

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This is the small wall Testa refers to - step around it to the left and follow the trail.
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This sign worried me at first but then I confirmed the You Are Here is well before the closure at Satan's Slab.
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This seems to be the "portion of the creek that runs down terraced steps" as described in Simon Testa's guidebook.


Hill Billy Rock (including sneak peek of sport climb route on the back)

I only went a tiny ways up a few spots on this one, looking for the class 4 route Gerry Roach claims is somewhere in the middle. Maybe I just didn't hit the right line but it wasn't feeling class 4 to me. If you're interested, check back later as I'll likely return and try again later this year and likely just send the class 5 if I don't find the class 4 option.

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SE corner of Hill Billy Rock.
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Maybe could work out a class 4 option along this overhang but it wasn't jumping out at me...
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Overview from the little Flatironette just to the east.
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View of the northern edge of the east face.
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Back (west) side of Hill Billy Rock - note the climber hidden midway up the pine tree...
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Some random guy taking on a tough look sport climb route on the back of Hill Billy Rock.


The Hobo (epic exposure on tiny class 4 summit)

I absolutely loved this easy little class 4 Flatironette due to it's totally awesome summit!

After seeing Gerry Roach's class 4 description of Hill Billy Rock turn out to perhaps be sandbagged (maybe I just didn't look hard enough) as I came around Hill Billy Rock and caught a first glimpse of The Hobo I was worried this too was going to be harder than described.

But I was pleasantly surprised as I drew near to find it was indeed a very doable class 4 route with big chunky holds.

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First view of The Hobo after coming around the north of Hill Billy Rock.


We later circled around and got some sweet views of the Hobo from below. Since I now know there's an easy class 4 downclimb I might come back later and try the sketchy looking 5.4 free solo route on the SW corner as described on Mountain Project: https://www.mountainproject.com/route/105760200/southwest-corner

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Looking up at the summit from below.
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Side view of the Hobo. Supposedly a 5.4 free solo route on the SW corner - might come back for that.


As I said, this looked a little intimidating at first but the closer I got the easier it seemed. I followed the chunky stuff up the middle the stayed along the extreme right edge as it smoothed out a little near the top.

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Looks like a continuous chunk at first...
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...but there's a good sized crack partway up. My 6'2" frame hoped over with ease.
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The crack to hop over. Various options here for shorter folks as well...
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Huge hook hold helping to make this a really easy class 4.
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The big chunks thin out a bit near the top - I stayed along the extreme right edge at that point.


The summit is the absolute jewel of this little feature and my favorite thus far - even better than Der Zerkle! The exposure is epic. Mountain Project seems to indicate this is only 50 feet up - I had guessed double that. But it's pretty much a straight sheer drop on either side so that makes it feel taller than it apparently is.

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I used the wide angle mode on my camera to great effect on the summit.
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View looking out east.


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Again wide angle mode capturing the tiny, exposed nature of this sweet little summit.
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Regular lens this time looking off the side - doesn't get much more sheer than this! ~50ft straight drop.


The downclimb, as always, was slightly more awkward especially near the top but it wasn't too bad given the other stuff I've done in my previous Flatiron reports. If you're new to this type of thing maybe start with the features in those earlier reports linked at the start of this one to gain some confidence. Then come enjoy this sweet little climb!

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Coming down - Geo partway down on the right as a scale model.
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Further down - coming into the big chunky holds. Geo now providing larger scale.


Check back later this year as I'll almost certainly be back to this one to try doing some straight-up climbing instead of the slab stuff which makes up much of the Flatirons.

I'm still having trouble uploading merged GPX tracks so I'm just including a partial for now.


My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51


Comments or Questions
Sbenfield

Very nice!
05/23/2021 21:34
We missed you guys this weekend, but this looked like a sweet day out! I‘ll have to check it out sometime



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