Me, near the final pitch of the ridge traverse on the First Flatiron.
Note: I apologize for the long delay in getting this post up. I have had it half way written for about three weeks now. Due to the length of this post I also decided to break up the trip report into three parts, so this will now be part two of three.
Also, I am pleased to announce I am now an engaged man. If you want to know more about the wonderful lady, read this post that I wrote a couple months ago. Anyway, enjoy the trip report.
Climbing Fandango (5.5 II) last year was perhaps the highlight of my climbing career. It was 7 pitches of enjoyable run-out climbing. So, it would only make sense that I would be psyched about climbing the Direct East Face (5.6 III). The climb pretty much goes directly up the middle of the First Flatiron (in Boulder, CO) and then traverses the ridge, west, to the summit block. It’s 10 pitches of pure enjoyment on easy terrain. The climb this year did not disappoint.
We woke up at 5 a.m. with the goal of being at the base of the climb at 6 a.m., but due to a slow start leaving the Hostel in Boulder and making a wrong turn off the trail we didn’t make it to the base until about 7:15 a.m. There was also another couple getting started at the base of the climb, so after waiting on them we probably got started close to 7:45 a.m.
Naren lead the first 5.6 pitch, which actually ended up being two pitches rolled into one. Naren ran out a full rope length to a good ledge. I actually had to take him off belay and stop down from my belay ledge to give him enough rope to put me on belay from above. The first pitch was the hardest pitch of the day, and I was thankful Naren had taken the lead. The first pich had two bolts on it due to the inability to place protection, but that was very surprising considering the only other bolt on the entire 1,000ft face was at the top of the second pitch for an anchor.
After arriving at the belay ledge with Naren I took a short rest, took the rack and began the second pitch. My first piece of protection was about 10-15 feet from the belay ledge. After that I didn’t get another piece in for at least 20 feet. At this point I began to wander off route towards what I thought was the path of least resistance. As it turns out, I was getting myself into 5.9 terrain, and Caleb doesn’t do well in run-out terrain like that. After much contemplating about continuing on my path of destruction, down-climbing, and then climbing back up again, I decided to completely down climb all the way down to my last piece of protection and then traverse left to meet back up with the route I was supposed to be on. I gave Naren a good scare too, he thought we ware going to have to bail off the route and call it a day, but I managed to collect my cool and proceed with the route.
Me, coming up pitch three of the Direct East Face on the First Flatiron.
Naren then lead the third pitch without any problems, other than passing a good belay stance, which required a bit of down climbing to return to the proper belay. I was up for the fourth pitch, which turned out to be a really run out 5.4 – 5.5, and was the headwall pitch. I didn’t find any gear right off the bealy, and was a good 30-40 feet above the belay before slinging a large horn. My second protection point was another slung horn – my only two places of protection on the entire pitch. The top of the fourth pitch had a nice large ledge that we decided to rest on. At this point a guide and his two clients caught up to us. They were moving very fast. The guide would solo the pitch, just hauling up twin ropes and would bring both clients up at the same time. What an efficient way to lead a part up 1,000+ feet of rock.
Naren, near the top of the fourth pitch on the Direct East Face of the FIrst Flatiron.
Naren lead pitch five, but ended up far right of the correct belay, thus adding an extra short pitch for us, which ended up being a short traverse that I lead. I contemplated connecting the entire pitch, but the guide that ended up passing as at this point had conjured up some mental blocks in my head my telling me a certain way was easier than going up the obvious gulley. I wavered back and forth for about ten minutes then decided to break up the pitches and bring Naren over. The anchor here was also pretty sketchy, so upon Naren arriving at the belay I made sure he didn’t put any weight on it. Since we had created an extra pitch here, Naren took the lead what became the seventh pitch. Since we ended up combining the first two, this put us at the correct number of pitches to reach the summit ridge.
From here we had several ridge line pitches until we reached the summit block. Since I had lead all but one pitch on this ridge I let Naren lead most of them. They were all very easy, with one 5.5 crux section, which was really the only place we needed to be roped up. The exposure on the ridge was quite nice, but the terrain was so easy it never became an issue.
After reaching the summit we made the rappel down the backside of the Flatiron, that took almost a full 30 meters. Other than having to pull the rope off a ledge on the way down, the rappel went perfectly smooth. Upon riving back at the car we had spent close to a full 12 hours. Not too bad considering we got slightly lost on the way in and ended up having to wait on two different parties during our climb; not to mention my wayward route finding skills. The journey was a blast, and I look forward to doing more Flatiron routes in the future. Hopefully one of them will be with my wife to be!
Parting Shot. Me, near the final pitch of the ridge traverse on the FIrst Flatiron. This is probably my favorite climbing picture I have had taken of me.