Monday, July 16, 2007

Day 17, we made it to the top!


The day started early. We were at the park at 4:30 and started hiking up the trail. But then we heard a rustle in the meadow and my headlamp lit up two beady eyes in the distance. We weren't sure if it was a deer, mountain lion, or perhaps a black bear watching us. It was a few hundred feet off, and didn't run away so we thought we'd wait back in the parking lot another 20 minutes to see if it got lighter. It didn't get that much lighter, as you can see from the picture which was taken near the base of the First Flatiron. Somehow we made up time on the hike, which only took us 40 minutes -- we had guessed 90 since we had packs on!

At 6:00 AM Dan started to lead the first pitch of what we thought was the route "Far Right" (aka East Face North Side). Who knows what route it actually is. Must be something, there were rapp rings at a tree that Dan belayed at. There were some runouts, so it was a fairly quick lead (for us). This shot looks down on the 1st pitch.

At 7:00 Dan started on the 2nd pitch. Another short, dirty pitch -- trees in the way, lichen on the rock, patches of dirt. The highlight was at the top of this pitch (8:00), when off to our right we saw a fox roaming around the top of the First Flatironette.

The third pitch was quite a bit longer. This shot is looking up at the beginning of it.

It took 50 minutes to lead and was about 180 feet long -- at some point the climb clambered to the left over the broken rock onto the next slab face. As Laurel cleaned the pitch she noticed another climbing party below. We were starting to get out of the trees and the view was beautiful.

Around 9:20 Laurel made it to the top of the 3rd pitch. It was a great belay ledge, enough room to take off your shoes and relax a bit.

We took some pictures, had a little more breakfast (Clif bars and water, yum yum), and watched the climbers below for a bit. They were climbing the "same route" as we were, even though we followed a line probably 60' north of theirs on the rock. It's really hard to pick out features from a 5-inch topo of a 1000-foot rock when they're 2 feet in front of you, so who knows if any of us did the "real" climb.

Around 9:50 Dan started to lead the 4th pitch. One of the topos online said that there was a "false summit" pitch on the "North Arete" climb, and this sure looked like a summit, so we thought maybe this was the end of the "Far Right" and the beginning of the "North Arete".

By the time half the rope was out there was a ton of rope drag. The pitch kept going up and down minor summits (local maxima?).

It really was a drag, felt more like tugging a boat than climbing, so at 10:30 Dan decided to call an end to the pitch and set up a hanging belay. Of course, this is gritty sandstone of questionable soundness so that's not trivial (in fact, route-finding the whole climb was done by aiming for a crack that might take some pro, vs. following detail from the topo, which was generally ignored beyond the first pitch).

After equalizing five placements the hanging belay was ready.

By 11 AM Laurel was hanging out on the top of the fourth pitch on this belay also; Dan got ready to lead the next long pitch. This shot looks up and over towards our 5th pitch.

The view of the park from this belay was amazing -- it's hard to believe that the meadow had 2-4' grasses and other plants, from this height it looked like a closely trimmed golf course.

Around 11:50 Dan was at the top of pitch 5 and by noon Laurel was en route; she took this shot of Dan belaying her.

When she arrived at the top of the pitch (12:20), we met up with a guy in shorts who had "walked" up sans rope. It seemed obvious that he had climbed the rock a few times before, yet he asked us if we knew where there was a walk-off. Unfortunately for him, it was a few hundred feet of downclimbing and traversing northward to a point where he could hop off the back of the rock and bushwhack his way back to the base.

This shot is looking back at the end of the 5th pitch.

Dan re-rigged the pitch 5 belay anchor with a cordalette to have extra slings to take for the next pitch, and took off around 12:30 for the 6th pitch. The clouds to the west were starting to look pretty scary at that point. We could tell it was raining some miles away. (Notice that the farthest mountains are in shadows; in later pictures they are not.) The past few days it has rained lightly in the afternoon, around 2-3 PM, so we were getting a little nervous... time to pick up the pace a bit.

The sixth pitch was another long one, and disgustingly filled with fleas or flies or something. We had noticed a few earlier but it was really bad on the 6th -- they were crawling all over us. I'm not sure how a rock gets fleas. Someone must have brought a cat up.

At 1:40 we were both at the top of the 6th pitch, and the clouds still looked angry. We were hopeful that we were looking at the summit. It sure didn't look like there was another pitch beyond that big hunk of rock!

(Not the summit)

Dan led the 7th pitch up to the top of the "summit", looking for eye bolts to rappel off of, but when he got there (2:00) all he found was... another summit beyond! When Laurel cleaned the 7th pitch she got a great shot of the 2nd and 3rd Flatirons.

At the top of the 7th pitch she couldn't believe there was another summit either. The clouds were looking really bad and we had felt a few drops, so there was little time for pictures. It must have been about 2:30. Dan got to the real summit around 2:45 and Laurel followed soon after.

No time for a nice group shot at the summit. Dan rigged the rappel and took off; Laurel took a few pictures, in particular, she got one that is our proof of summiting! It's too bad we didn't have more time to appreciate the top, but we didn't want to become lightening rods -- the clouds seemed to be approaching fast.

We hiked down to the base of the rock, packed up our gear, and headed down to the car. It was 5 PM when we left the park. A 13-hour day with 9 hours of climbing and 8 pitches -- and we didn't even get rained on -- not bad!

1 comment:

Donna said...

very impressive.
and i like the last shot.