December, First Half12/15/2014
Well, after a couple weeks off, I got started again at the first of the month with some activity, almost all big scrambling link-ups in the Flatirons, with gradual amounts of running introduced. The last couple of weeks have been anomalously dry and warm here on the Front Range, so maximizing the good weather with scrambling and climbing has made more sense to me than starting up any skiing yet.
Here’s a shorthand key for the Flatiron climbs that I repeated the most these past couple weeks (almost all Gerry Roach Flatiron Classics):
1st = First Flatiron, East Face Direct
2nd = Second Flatiron, either the Freeway or Free For All
3rd = Third Flatiron, Standard East Face
MA = Morning After/Needle/The Thing
YM = Yodeling Moves on the Hammerhead
GMP = West Chimney on Green Mt Pinnacle
CH = Challenger
4th = Fourth Flatiron, East Face
5th = Fifth Flatiron, usually East Face North Side
HB = Hillbilly Rock
STH = Stairway to Heaven
Satans = Satan’s Slab
Angels = Angel’s Way
AP = Achean Pronouncement
PR = Primal Rib on The Rainbow
Sat – 1st & 2nd Flatiron-MA-GMP-CH-YM-MA (2:38, 3800)
Well, that was unexpected. I biked up to Chat this morning planning on just scrambling an easy lap on the First in order to test my shin to see if I could join some friends for an outing tomorrow. On the way down from the First I jumped on the 2nd Flatiron to downclimb the Freeway, and when I got to the bottom I decided I’d hike over into Bluebell Canyon to check out the Morning After…despite the crux roof crack being a bit wet and icy, it went fine, and I was having such a good time, that I figured what the heck, I’ll scramble a few more. The Hammerhead (Yodeling Moves), Green Mt Pinnacle and Challenger are all right there–and some of my favorite formations in the Flatirons–so I ticked all of those before hiking back to Chautauqua. Really, really nice first outing after almost two weeks off.
Sun – MA-GMP-CH+Green Mt. (1:35, 3000′)
Today was my buddy Jeff’s 1000th summit of Green Mountain, accomplished in exactly 10 years. Hot damn. Joe and I were keen to join him, but also wanted to take advantage of the beautiful weather (+55F at 8am) to get in some scrambling before meeting up with Jeff and others on the summit of Green. Joe had yet to climb the Morning After, GMP, or Challenger, so I was excited to show him these classics. As he was pulling the crux moves on the Morning After, a dramatic layer of clouds and very cold air rolled in; the ambiance factor went through the roof and the temp plummeted 30+ degrees Fahrenheit over the course of 45min. Crazy stuff! From the top of Challenger it’s a quick 10min to the summit of Green itself. It was a blast looking out over the ocean of clouds below us and getting to join in celebrating Jeff’s milestone. Jeff was the guy who definitely encouraged me the most in really getting to know all the nooks and crannies and vintage routes on the mountain, so it was super cool to be there on #1000 with him.
Mon – HB Rock-STH-Satans-Angels-AP-PR+Dinosaur Mt+S. Green+Green Mt+Amphitheater (3:55, 4200′)
I’ve always looked up at the south summit of Green and thought that the slabs leading up to/forming it would make a great scramble. Today I finally got up there to check it out, but first scrambled all of the classics in Skunk Canyon—up Hillbilly Rock, down Stairway to Heaven, up Satan’s, down Angel’s Way—and then linked up the Achean Pronouncement and Primal Rib to get to the summit of Dinosaur Mt (a sub-peak on Green’s southeast aspect). The ridge connecting Dino Mt and South Green looks really nice from afar, but with the undergrowth and remnant snow it was a bit of a hassle today, which made the broken, somewhat vegetated character of the slabs above there all the more disappointing. The final summit block of South Green is really nice, though, and after traversing over to tag the true summit of Green, I jog/shuffled my way down to the Amphitheater where I capitalized on my scrambling coordination to finally solo the short, but bulgy Slot route up to the West Bench (a Roach Classic). Great day all-around.
Tue – Morning After-Challenger-Green Mt+2nd Flatiron (1:52, 2700′)
Wind. It’s been really windy recently, but today was definitely the worst so far. The Morning After is quite sheltered, which is why I elected to go this way, but I just got lucky on Challenger, as things could’ve been a lot more tenuous on that arete. It’s funny how desperate a little wind makes everything feel. Definitely reinforces just how important balance is when trying to travel in the vertical plane.
Wed – Seal Rock-Fiddlehead-Onoclea-Paellea-Slab (4:28, 5500′)
Today I finally scouted the Fern Canyon Roach Classics, starting from the Cragmoor TH. Seal Rock‘s classic route is on the south side of its east face (I’ve scrambled the north side several times), and the start proved to be an attention-grabbing warm-up, especially with a pack on my back (the guidebook indicated that the Fiddlehead, Onoclea, and Paellea would all require a rappel). After downclimbing, I bushwhacked over to the Fern Canyon trail and then spent a long time trying to figure out what piece of rock was actually Fiddlehead. I even went so far as to erroneously scramble part-way up and then downclimb what would turn out to be the East Ridge (a chunk of rock just up the hill from the FH). When I finally found the correct formation, the scrambling was easy enough, and I was surprised to spy what looked to be a steep, sneaky, but doable-looking downclimb on its west face. Rappelling is a pain in the ass—and this one is done in two pitches—so I was keen to try out the downclimb. To my surprise and pleasure, it ended up going fine—with plenty of care and attention—and deposited me very near the base of the next scramble, Onoclea.
This formation offered more usual east-face fare with nice views over to the directly adjacent Paellea. On the summit I located the rap anchors but once again spied a nice crack on the west face that looked downclimbable. After wriggling down through the initial off-width section it went just fine, but, as with Fiddlehead, both of these downclimbs were definitely more technically difficult than anything on the actual east face routes (5.4-6ish, perhaps?). Next up was Paellea, which Roach actually gives the high distinction of being a Top-10 Classic. It’s pretty darn good, but Top-10 status seems a bit generous. I found the initial bulge—the supposed crux of the whole route—to go quite easily due to the scoops and the flake to the right, but there were two more steeper sections higher up on the rock that I thought had thinner holds/required more friction. Maybe I just wasn’t doing great with the route-finding. Either way, there was definitely no reasonable downclimb off this summit, so I got out the rope and harness for the only time today and zipped down to the northwest.
After putting the rope away, it was a quick jog down Fern Canyon to the very long complete traverse of The Slab, before I descended all the way back down to the Mesa Trail and ran all the way south to the Maiden/Fatiron area. Alas, my late start and rock-finding shenanigans all finally caught up to me and by time I realized how to get to the Fatiron the light was dimming considerably. I made it back over to Cragmoor before it got full-on dark, but the bike ride home could’ve surely benefited from a headlamp.
Thu – 1st Flatiron+Green Mt-Angels-AP-PR-Satans-YM-Morning After (3:19, 5700′)
I mostly just tried to hit my favorite routes today. I feel like I’ve been neglecting the First a bit, so I scrambled that, went to the top of the mountain and descended from there down to Skunk Canyon for my favorite rocks in that area. Really liked the way this circuit ended up linking together.
Fri – Fatiron & Maiden (5:00, 2000′)
Joe and I got out today for a pair of Top-10 Classics, and, in the case of the Maiden, maybe the most classic formation in all the Flatirons, right up there with the First and Third Flatirons. After a toasty approach (is it winter yet?!) jogging in from the South Mesa TH, we decided to get the scrambling juices flowing with an ascent of the Fatiron, which is directly adjacent to the Maiden. After getting up the first big chunk of the formation there is a short but overhanging downclimb onto the second piece that involves wriggling through a body-sized rift in the stone before trusting your holds and stepping down onto the next piece. The second piece offers easier scrambling, but has another interesting downclimb off the summit via a surprising crevasse-like exit.
The approach over to the west ridge of the Maiden was quick, but we donned our harnesses and climbing shoes before scrambling the first two pitches down the airy arete to the Crow’s Nest. Here, the rap station provided a comfy anchor for Joe while I ventured down the ramp on the first pitch of the north face traverse. After some devious route-finding, I eventually found what I think is the path of least resistance and belayed from the convenient tree while Joe traversed through the second pitch of easy but fiercely exposed climbing over to the base of the east face. From there we scrambled up the final easy pitch to the summit and then did the wild rappel back down to the Crow’s Nest. I’ve done the free rappel off the back of the Third Flatiron a couple of times, but it has nothing on the absolutely amazing position that this descent offers. I think I unintentionally held my breath the entire ride down.
Sat – Seal Rock-Fiddlehead-Onoclea-Slab-Central Shanahan Crag (2:46, 4000′)
After biking over to the Cragmoor TH, I had a reprisal of Wednesday’s outing, but I didn’t bring a rope, so didn’t go up Paellea. Things went much more quickly this time around, but after descending from the summit of the Slab I accidentally started up North Shanahan Crag (the classic is on Central). I had my phone with me today and on each summit would check TNF50 updates and Hardrock Lottery updates. I was psyched to see Dakota have such a good race out in California and to see that I made it onto the HR start list this year. Nice to have summer plans firm up a little bit.
Sun – 1st Flatiron+Green Mt-AP-PR-Satans-4th Flatiron-GMP-CH-MA (3:30, 6200′)
This was a typical great day out scrambling in the Flatirons—I particularly enjoy heading down to the Skunk Canyon ridges after summiting Green—but less than 15min from being back at Chautauqua, just after I’d finished descending from the Morning After, I turned my right ankle pretty hard. Certainly the worst I’ve rolled it since I cranked it good before Lavaredo this past summer. Real bummer. Once you sprain one of these suckers, it gets super fragile and all too easy to go over on it again—which is typically excruciating, and, of course, negates any progress you’ve made in re-strengthening it.
Mon – 1st Flatiron+Green Mt. (1:51, 3000′)
Yesterday’s rolled right ankle meant I had to keep things mellow and stay on more mellow surfaces, i.e. actual trails (versus all the bushwhacking and off-trail travel that comes with scramble link-ups). I also tested my shin out by actually running the streets to Chautauqua instead of biking, and it seems to have passed with nary a squeak. It was fun to get back on my old standby, the First Flatiron, as it seems I’ve been neglecting it a bit recently in favor of dialing in a bunch of new formations. My ankle progressively felt better throughout the run, but I had to be pretty careful with it as re-tweaking it right now would be disastrous.
Tue – Torrey’s & Grays Peaks (3:15, 5300′)
It seemed a crime to not be using this warm weather as an opportunity to get up high, so today I did. There’s enough snowpack on the approach road that it’s no longer reasonably driveable, but it’s bare enough in enough spots that skiing it would require squeaking by on some pretty narrow patches. With a pair of trekking poles, however, the footing was perfect for running, and with my aggressively lugged shoes I never even felt the need for Microspikes today. I ascended Torrey’s via the Kelso Ridge before bopping over to Grays, and while it wasn’t summer conditions, it was surprisingly dry. And warm and windless. I had on tights, a t-shirt, and a long-sleeve and despite having a wind shell and puffy jacket in my pack, I never felt the need for either.
Wed – 1st Flatiron-3rd Flatiron-MA-GMP-CH+Green Mt. (2:19, 4200′)
I was pretty tired after yesterday’s outing, so I kept things pretty casual today. The Morning After, Green Mt Pinnacle, and Challenger are all quite short—taking 6min, 3min, and 5min to climb, respectively—so this was a suitable easier effort while still getting in some fun formations.
Thu – 1st Flatiron+Green Mt. (1:43, 3000′)
Today, Joe and I planned on getting in a full day of good climbing, so I got out early for a run up and down the hill from my doorstep. It was a real pleasure to be stepping onto the First at sunrise and experiencing all the freshness and electric potential that comes with that time of day. Alas, some life circumstances got in the way, but we were able to salvage the gorgeous day with a truncated session at the Animal World crag up in Boulder Canyon. It was single-pitch sport climbing—rather than the multi-pitch trad we’d planned—but it was still a ton of fun to be outside pulling hard on real rock. Until I tried just a little too hard on the crux of the day’s final route and nearly completely ripped the fingernail off my left middle finger.
Fri – 1st Flatiron-3rd Flatiron-MA-GMP-CH-YM-5th Flatiron+Green Mt (3:02, 5000′)
More of the same here, just trying to take advantage of the last couple of days of great weather and dry rock before things cool off next week.
Sat – Hillbilly Rock-Stairway to Heaven-Satan’s Slab-Angel’s Way-AP-PR (2:36, 4000′)
Anticipating tomorrow’s snow, I knew today would be the last day for scrambling in a while, so I wanted to maximize. After running over to Skunk Canyon, things were going perfectly, zipping up and down the four ridges on the north side of the canyon and then doing my usual link-up of the Achean Pronouncement and Primal Rib on the south side. My plan was to then run over to Fern Canyon to hit Seal Rock, Fiddlehead, and Onoclea, however, while cruising down the Porch Alley (a climber’s access route) on Dino Mt I re-rolled my right ankle in a bad way. The most frustrating thing about it was that the very moment I rolled it I was very deliberately focusing on not rolling it—none of the usual complacency or distraction that typically precipitates these things. So, instead of the enjoying the second half of the scramble sess I’d planned, I hobbled down to the Mesa trail and gingerly jogged my way back to Chautauqua. The ankle is just super-weak at the moment, can’t keep re-tweaking it.
Sun – Green Mt. (1:51, 3000′)
With the falling snow (!!) and fragile ankle, I actually contemplated just sticking to the creek paths and logging some proper miles. Instead, I compromised by running the streets up to Chautauqua, hiking up Green (#987 all-time, #115 this year) and pussyfooting down the Ranger trail, and then hopping on Flagstaff Road for a worry-free descent back down to town. The ankle was (thankfully) a total non-issue on the roads, but I had to be quite careful on the trails. I might just submit to some exclusive road running for a couple days, but I’m not quite confident enough in my shin just yet for that treatment. But, it didn’t hurt at all today.