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Summer Kick-Off05/28/2016

I wanted to climb today, but my regular partners were busy and I knew it would be kind of madness to try and fight the Memorial Day Weekend crowds at the crags anyways. So, instead, I just woke up early for some (hopefully) pre-crowd scrambling.

I rolled away from my front door at 6:15am and pointed the bike towards Eldo where I knew there would be plenty of people eager to head for the exact two spots I was eager to head for: the Wind Tower and the base of Rewritten on the Redgarden Wall. Even so, after I’d locked up my bike and walked up to the Wind Tower I was a little bit surprised to see a party already racking up at the base of Calypso, before 7am.

Wind Ridge scrambling a couple days ago. Photo: Mauricio Herrera.

Wind Ridge scrambling a couple days ago. Photo: Mauricio Herrera.

I cruised a couple quick warm-up laps on Boulder Direct and West Overhang, and they were still at the base. After a romp up Wind Ridge, they were still at the base. I finally sheepishly asked if they’d mind if I climbed ahead of them and they had no problem, so I finished my Wind Tower action with a customary lap on Calypso, then downclimbed and changed out of my climbing shoes and into my running shoes for the march up the backside of the Redgarden Wall to the base of the West Chimney. I was quick here because a huge chain of people had just embarked on the same approach and I was sure at least some if not all would be headed for the same staging area as me. I really prefer scrambling without an audience.

Hiking up the Redgarden approach trail is way easier without a rack swinging from your harness or a rope tied to your back (my typical situation), so it felt like the approach went quickly. Alas, there was already a party roping up at the base of Rewritten, but they weren’t ready yet and were actually quite chatty, so there was no issue. I quickly changed back into climbing shoes, clipped my running shoes to my waist, and headed up.

The last time I’d climbed the West Chimney it had been pouring rain so everything felt quite insecure for 5.6. Thankfully, today it felt great. I climbed the Zot Crack to basically the roof, and then easily stepped right into the chimney. There’s only one section that requires some actual chimneying moves, and after that I was on the Red Ledge.

My plan had been to head up the classic Swanson’s Arete from there, but, much to my surprise, an even more enterprising party was already on its first pitch. I didn’t feel like climbing through anyone, so just exchanged quick pleasantries and continued traversing over to the start of Icarus, which I had climbed with Mauricio just a couple days prior.

T1-Arete

Looking down the summit arete pitch of Icarus with South Boulder Creek and the road far below.

As such, everything felt really good in the quiet, calm morning and I had the added bonus of summiting Tower One (Icarus shares the same final arete pitch with the Yellow Spur) instead of the slightly-less-proud, adjacent Lumpe Tower that is the summit of Swanson’s. After a quick change back into my Vertical K’s, it was only a 12min descent down the East Slabs to my bike.

Next up, I had plans for the Fatiron and Maiden, the latter being the reason I’d lugged 60 meters of rope all the way down here with me. Even with only a 7.8mm cord, it still feels like an unfortunate amount of extra weight and faffery.

REEB The Sam's Pants--Adventure machine.

The REEB Cycles The Sam’s Pants–adventure machine.

The bike down to the South Mesa trailhead was super quick, and soon I was jogging up the Mesa and Bluestem trail to the base of the Fatiron. Right before the water trough spring, I bumped into Kyle, a young runner/scrambler who was actually just returning from a lap on the Fatiron and a quick out-n-back to the Crow’s Nest on the Maiden’s west ridge, something I often do myself when I’m in the area but without climbing shoes or a rap rope.

Matron on the far left, Maiden and Fatiron on the far right.

Matron on the far left, Maiden and Fatiron on the far right.

I didn’t really need the warm-up scramble that the Fatiron provides, but I think it is by far the most fun and logical approach to the west ridge of the Maiden.

Profile view of the first piece of the Fatiron, as seen from the Maiden. The downclimb onto the upper slab is just down from that tree.

Profile view of the first piece of the Fatiron, as seen from the Maiden. The downclimb onto the upper slab is in a hidden fissure just down from that tree.

The cruise down the west ridge to the Crow’s Nest is quick and easy, really like any other Flatiron scrambling, except for the double-exposure on the last little bit of super-narrow ridge. From there, though, things start to feel much more serious in the cool shade of the North Face.

The initial slab on the Maiden's west ridge.

The initial slab on the Maiden’s west ridge.

 

The view you see from the top of that slab---the fearsome west face of the Maiden.

The view you see from the top of that slab—the fearsome west face of the Maiden.

I’d scrambled the Maiden three times last fall so had the moves pretty well worked out in my head, but it still took me a minute to shake off the rust on the initial traverse into the tree ledge. The wall is roughly vertical here with good crimps for the hand but non-obvious feet, so you just kind of stick them to whatever nubs make the most sense.

On the first pass I somehow ended up traversing in too high, but I corrected this when I reversed back to the ramp (practicing for the day when I’m mentally ready to downclimb the whole route) and re-traversed back in. Next up is what is the crux of the whole climb for me—the descending traverse down to the base of the prominent column on the route. I believe Gerry Roach describes the exposure on this part of the North Face as “fierce” in his guidebook. Hard to argue with that.

The beautiful north face of the Maiden.

The beautiful north face of the Maiden. The route traverses to the brightly-colored pillar before escaping up onto the east face of the formation.

Luckily, the rock is very featured, it’s just that you’re actually downclimbing through this section so it feels awkward. The very last move into the alcove always causes me to pause and make sure I’m placing my feet on the best holds and am in full control of my center of gravity. Then it’s a quick scamper up and onto the east face. However, it is this transitional move from the north face onto the formation’s eastern aspect that feels so trivial while ascending that is the only thing keeping me from downclimbing the route (and leaving that heavy rope behind!). Today I actually reversed it once, but when I went to reverse it a second time, I wouldn’t commit. Good thing I had the rope.

Normally I’m decently efficient with ropework, but today I wasn’t in a hurry and faced with the Maiden’s spectacular completely free-hanging rappel—you’re literally dangling in space for 100′—I took extra time to triple-check everything and to carefully flake the tails of my rope into my pack so that there was no chance of them getting blown around and snagged somewhere while I was trying to slide down them. It was a beautiful, windless morning, however, so there were zero issues.

maiden_rope

From the bottom of the rappel at the Crow’s Nest, looking back up to the summit.

After repacking the rope, changing back into my running shoes, and scrambling back out the west ridge, it was just a lovely hike/jog back down to my bike. I can’t wait until the Matron is re-opened to climbing in two months, making available a link-up of what I think are the two most striking towers of rock in the Flatirons.

Overall, today was a great re-introduction to the kind of scrambling skills I’m looking forward to employing in the higher peaks later this summer.

12 responses to “Summer Kick-Off”

  1. Rob says:

    You might enjoy ‘Dags in Beanland’ up in Cedar Park if you want peaceful scrambling away from the crowds (hard enough to merit a lap with a rope first but a great 3rd class outing after a scout). Greyrock in the Poudre is also interesting for the type of adventure you seem to enjoy. Of course, I’m sure you’re aware you have endless supply of rock to explore and your front range sandstone fixation does not stem from a lack of options. Have a great summer

  2. Barry Bliss says:

    Thanks.

  3. Tomas says:

    Reading your posts I always thought of scrambling as a quick moving up a rocky but much less steep terrain than on the first picture. This looks like a serious free solo climbing. Hard to imagine for someone who is scared of hights like me.

  4. Steve says:

    Anton,
    Do you have plans to race this summer? I thought I read somewhere that you were thinking about UTMB again.

  5. Rodolfo oliveros herrero says:

    Anton…vuelve, por favor, vuelve al lugar que te hacía infinito y del que fuiste expulsado por querer empujar el río. Tus lesiones son tus maestras, empieza por donde empezaste, no.por donde acabaste…y renace.

  6. Eric Adams says:

    Faffery. You love that word:)

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  8. Emma says:

    There’s only one section that https://www.russellbromleys.co.uk/ requires some actual chimneying moves, and after that I was on the Red Ledge.

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