Thursday, August 4, 2011

Cool approach to the Fifth Flatiron

A few evenings back, I wanted some fresh air in the Flatirons, so I combined some familiar scrambles and climbing into a nice outing. This is simply one random example of the hundreds of cool outings where we can hit several formations in a row. While I enjoy the standard routes in the Flatirons, the "link-up" days are pretty sweet. There are many areas in the Flatirons where we are able to combine several formations, and actually spend more time on the rock than hiking.

For this workout, I used the Mesa Trail and some old quarry trails to access the East Face of the  Regency. Descending the west side of the Regency puts you at the base of the East Face of the Royal Arch. From the Royal Arch, you are at a logical location to begin the East Face South Side route on the Fifth Flatiron. The combination of the first two formations makes for a really nice scramble approach to the Fifth, and avoids the "out and back" hiking of the Royal Arch Trail. As you can see from the image/gadget, it is nearly a straight line from start to finish.
Looking at the huge amount of rock in the Flatirons gives a good idea of how many possible link-ups are out there. Familiarity with the routes, trails, descent trails, and tricks yields a lifetime of unique scrambles and climbs.
Panorama from Fifth Flatiron summit - looking down to the Third Flatiron and Boulder
The formations and climbs:
The Regency features the 3rd class route, "El Camino". But honestly, as a climber, there is no "logical" route on the Regency. Rather it seems to trend from 3rd class on the right (north)
edge to 5th class as you venture further and further left (south). I like the 3rd class "stair step" start on the right side, which uses the talus field as the most "civilized" and bush-free approach, as opposed to the drainage trails. And you can hit it from a full sprint. From the 3rd class start, I moved further left on the face to some clean arête and flake features. This avoids some of the loose rock encountered on the 3rd class climb, and some of the crumbling rock found further left. On this outing, I descended the west side of the formation, which deposits you nearly at the start of the Royal Arch East Face.

The Royal Arch has an excellent East Face route. While it is enjoyable to take it to the top, it is so clean and solid that it is quite fun to descend, as well. Since there is a west side route, I took the East Face up and left to the hikers vista/bench, climbed the 5.6 west face boulder problem, and then descended the upper part of the East Face route, completing a Royal Arch crossing. Exiting to the bench for the second time, I walked through the arch to the Fifth Flatiron/Amoebid approach trail.

The Fifth Flatiron has some really clean slab climbing on it's left (south) edge. It's a medium length Flatiron climb, so approaching via the Regency and Royal Arch is a nice touch - adding around 500 feet of climbing. This brings the total rock mileage to over 1000 feet. While I didn't have a need for them this time, there are some nice belays on this route. The Fifth also has some sweet 5.4 slab sections. The rock is clean and the climbing is refined on these "cruxes". It's fair to say these sections are like Black Velvet Wall tilted from it's 85 degrees to the Flatiron's typical 45-50 degrees. The icing on the cake: the Fifth has one of the coolest finishing pitches in the Flatirons, with a nice 40-50 foot section of hand traversing the North Ridge.

This link-up is really cool. Why?
  • straight line up through multiple flatirons
  • progresses in difficulty
  • save the best pitch for last
  • awesome summit; easy rappel
  • nice belays
  • adventurous descent at the top, followed by the convenience of the Royal Arch trail
  • simpler options to bail in poor weather
  • uncrowded, quiet climbs