Discovering my new favorite Colorado crag at Flagstaff Mountain in Boulder

Between all the chaos of moving, and settling into my new life out in the Rockies, I lost sight of the very reason I made the cross-country relocation to Denver: I’m here to climb.

I shamefully allowed two weeks of no-climbing slip by before I finally snapped one morning and decided to drive out to Boulder to check out a spot my lady friend Jane had stumbled upon. With my hiking boots still out of commission from a trip to Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, I was admittedly ill-prepared in my dainty Keds for our little uphill adventure – but when has that ever stopped me?

We docked my car at the parking lot of Chautauqua Park, near the spot I usually park to head out to Satellite Boulders – but this time we headed back up Baseline Road towards the mountains rather than hanging left and heading straight into the park. This roadside route took us to a new park I hadn’t yet seen, Boulder Mountain Park. We trudged up along the edge of the pavement until we hit a trail head that shot straight up the hillside.

The approach to the first boulders was shorter than that of Satellites, but significantly steeper. I huffed and puffed my way up the narrow trail, and after a short sprint upwards, Jane led me to these beautiful, chalky boulders. (Excuse my iPhone photos, I’m still using a 3G, so it ain’t fancy.)

     

Our first excursion out to this spot was enjoyed later in the day, and I left my climbing shoes in Denver, so we vowed to return two days later armed with the proper gear. On our second visit, we crushed the intermediate routes with ease. A little digging around on Mountain Project’s guide for the Flagstaff Mountain area informed us that I sent Plain View Traverse, a flowy V3 with a balance-intensive top out. Jane took the first send of Trail Side Direct, a reachy V2 – and then I followed suit, quickly discovering that this particular problem has a sketchy top out that beckons you to straddle a thin slice of boulder and down climb a bleak slab.

While I certainly wasn’t pushing my true limits of climbing, it felt great to finally get out to a boulder field and get a little confidence boost with these great moderate problems. This new spot has me constantly daydreaming about its sweet lines, inviting holds, easy access, and how wonderful it is to have a fellow lady climber.

On the way back to the trail head, we came across the beast pictured to your left: Hobo Cave. This gem is tucked away on a poorly kept side trail, and a small fire pit in the middle of it hints towards the origin of its name. Hurried to beat the sunset, we didn’t have time to test out any of the lines, but I’m eager to return to the cave. The holds appear to have been permanently chalked for decades, and some of the rock is smooth as a kitchen counter top – the place was oozing with history.

The point of this proclamation of my new-found love for Flagstaff Mountain? Perhaps just to further my excitement over my third return visit today. This time Jane and I will be fully prepared with two crash pads, my camera, and $5 so we can park next to the crag rather than wasting time with the lengthy hike in. My goal for today is to check out, and possibly crush, Monkey Traverse – a classic V4 that seems to be the pride and joy of Flagstaff Mountain.

Send good vibes, and keep on climbin’.

Road Trip America Day 5 – Satellite Boulders and the free-soloing the Flat Irons in Boulder, Colorado

Yesterday afternoon was spent exploring the climbs at Chautauqua Park’s Flat Irons. To access the area, you park along this adorable residential area, which I believe is primarily comprised of timeshare or rental mountain homes – I wanted one so bad. There is a wide concrete path that guides you up the first little foothills before the trail becomes rugged and winds up the mountainside.


Our first stop was at the Satellite Boulder area. Highlight of the trip thus far was when I hopped on my first route of the day and miraculously topped out over an arete with the classic ‘beached whale’ method. I will admit, my ascent was neither graceful nor delicate – but alas, I am a lady! If you’ve ever climbed outdoors with me, you know how much of a baby I am when it comes to topping out.

During our day, we met a few groups of awesome climbers who made our experience out at the Flat Irons even more memorable. The first was a couple, Alex and Olivia, who were just hiking in the area and couldn’t resist hopping on the rocks after bumping into us. They certainly showed us some Colorado-style hospitality, and I really regret not exchanging contacts with them before scampering off to the next climb. Alex and Olivia – if you guys are readin’ this leave me your contact so I can keep in touch!

  

After our stint at the main boulder field, we hiked up the mountain to a great lookout point, then made our way back down to climb a bit more with a few locals, and Gunner, the playful pup extraordinaire. Niko spent the rest of his energy on a V8/9, then we started to make our way back down to the main trail head.

On our way down the rocky path, we passed by a towering slab wall, which the boys of course decided to free solo. The effort began as, “Let’s just go up a bit, there’s a plenty of spots to bail out,” but quickly escalated to three pitches worth of free soloing. Niko didn’t have a chalk bag, so he relied on Matt to pass him some powdery savior until he reached a blank portion of the wall and had an Alex Honnold style freak out. He eventually made his way down the wall, and by that time Juan had scrambled his way out of view, with Matt not too far behind.

While the boys had their fun, I was left at the base of the slab to act as photographer and videographer – and tour guide, as I had to narrate the boys’ climb many times for the passing hikers who stopped to watch their free soloing. The video is pretty rough – it was my first attempt at video with my ‘new’ tripod – but I’m going to try to edit some of the footage into something presentable.

Aside from my new-found chronic knee pain, my time at Chautauqua Park was a great experience. I spotted chipmunks, miniature snow patches, and awesome springtime blossoms. Topping out that sweet boulder problem was the cherry on a fantastic day.

Next up: We’re planning to head out to Boulder Canyon with the crew and finally Mcgoo + Rob. The forecast predicts a bit of snowfall during our excursion, but hopefully it won’t be anything unmanageable.