Monday, July 30, 2012

The First Flatiron Direct Route 5.6 R

The Flatirons. The first is on the right...

There are few routes I've encounter which are as accessible, exposed, and inspiring as the slab climbs up the Flatirons in Boulder Colorado. First time multipitchers and free soloist must agree that there is something more than these peaks than meets the eye.  These climbs provide a great place to learn the methods of traditional multipitch climbing, experience 1,000+ feet of climbing, and run it out a ridiculous amount.  Last weekend I had the pleasure to take 3 friends up the First Flatiron to experience their first mulitpitch climb.  The enthusiasm was high along with the temperature that day, but once we got to the base of the climb there was no question we'd give it our best go.  Plus once I left the ground they had no choice but to follow me anyway...

Pitch 1 belay perch.

Although not an ideal number for a team, I lead our party of four off the deck and up into the sky shooting for the summit.  Destined to lead every pitch and embrace the friction slab full on, I knew my experience would be slightly different than my compadres tied in beneath me.  Coming from the wide-world of full body crack climbing in Vedauwoo, I knew this slab was going to be an abrupt and immediate change in climbing styles.  I was left imagining how run-out this thing was going to be and tried not to think about how easy I could "grease off" in the midday sun.  The first pitch tested my coolness and revised my psych.  I didn't know it at the time but this climb is certainly most difficult in it's first 200' feet.  Although their are two beefy protection bolts on this pitch the rest of the gear is pretty questionable and the climbing quite delicate far above your gear.  The whole time all I wanted was a crack I could squeeze inside and arm-bar slowly and agonizingly upwards, man that woulda been sweet! Instead I got to run it out above a manky .75 Camalot with two lobes engaged far below my feet as my hands sweated profusely and my feet ached and moaned. I must be getting old or something.

Anthony and Hans on Pitch 1

Once I was adjusted to the friction and used to the lack of jamming the climbing became pretty enjoyable and a lot more chill.  The technical difficult backed off with every pitch and most had good gear every 15'-50' feet on average.  At one point on the second pitch I remember distinctly running it out about 40' above a pink tri-cam.  Although the piece was pretty bomber, while leading it was (at times) hard to focus on the climbing and ignore the fall potential.  But I did my best to keep in mind that this IS really only 5.6 and the likely hood of a fall was pretty small for most people.  Every pitch brought some new features, challenges, and exposure for the crew and I'm pretty excited that our rope system was working pretty smooth with one leader and a team of four.

Anthony nearing the Pitch 1 belay perch. 

Hans climbing higher up on the First.

Sara enjoying the cruise up the second pitch, 

Eventually we reached the big "Party Ledge" just two pitches shy of the summit, a good comfortable perch to relax for a little.  But before we had to much time to chill, we spotted lightning over Boulder in an approaching storm.  There was no choice in my mind what needed to be done and I started to formulate a bail plan and found a good lone tree to rappel from.  Typically you wouldn't rappel this route at all, but from the ledge we were at there was a good opportunity to bail down and left reaching a hiking trail pretty quickly.  Although we wanted to summit I knew it'd take us far longer to get up, and back down than we all thought.  So after two slightly-strange traversing rappels our team was down to the ground and safely off the First.   We weren't able to top it out this time, but the experience was appositive one and I'm glad I got to share the wonderful world of multipitch climbing with three new friends.  I hope their experience will continue to inspire them to climb and perhaps start pursing longer climbs in the future.  And if you haven't climbed any of the Flatiron's before, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them. Climb on!

Great view of Boulder!

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