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Seal Rock
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East Face North Side/Seal Rock 
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East Face North Side/Seal Rock 

YDS: 5.4 French: 4a Ewbanks: 12 UIAA: IV British: VD 3c

   
Type:  Trad, 4 pitches, 800'
Consensus:  YDS: 5.4 French: 4a Ewbanks: 12 UIAA: IV British: VD 3c [details]
FA: ?
Page Views: 16,156
Submitted By: Mike Sofranko on Aug 25, 2001
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Said feeling the exposure on Seal Rock.
Climbing areas reopened after flood MORE INFO >>>

Description 

Seal Rock is as good as Flatiron scrambling gets. Supposedly it's uncrowded, but the day I was there two groups of two were climbing this route. They were really friendly, and I tried to be, so it's all good.

Begin just up to the left of the lowpoint of the rock. Head up, following the path of least resistance. Maybe that should be 'follow the path of most assistance' as there isn't much on this rock to resist upward progress. I stayed pretty close to the right edge of the rock. After a couple/three pitches you will reach a nearly horizontal section of the ridge - this is the section of Seal Rock that gives it its distinctive shape. Walk left, and then engage the steeper upper third of the rock. A final two pitches wil bring you to the summit. Due to the climb-anywhere nature of the rock, describing the route in detail is difficult (or pointless). I didn't climb it, but there is a distinctive vertical crack that the other groups followed - about 40 feet left of the north edge.

To descend, I downclimbed the upper third of the rock to the elbow, walked down the ridge to a tree with a rap anchor, and cut back southwest and down a bit to an obvious wide crack that leads 10ft to the ground. It's very easy, but it's steep/overhanging.

Eds. Alternately, you can rappel off the north face 165 feet to the ground from a fixed anchor about 40 feet from the top.


Protection 

Standard Flatiron rack. Several shoulder length and longer runners useful for slinging stuff.



Photos of East Face North Side/Seal Rock Slideshow Add Photo
The obvious climber's trail that leads up to Seal Rock.  Cairned when we were there.
BETA PHOTO: The obvious climber's trail that leads up to Seal ...
This shows the trail that you should take to get to the Seal from the NCAR parking lot.
BETA PHOTO: This shows the trail that you should take to get t...
North face rappel station as of 15Aug09. Sorry for the weird perspective.
BETA PHOTO: North face rappel station as of 15Aug09. Sorry for...
Buzz Burrell, First Flatiron Speed Record Holder.
Buzz Burrell, First Flatiron Speed Record Holder.
Amy rapping out from the top of Sea of Joy (yeah right!)
Amy rapping out from the top of Sea of Joy (yeah r...
Downclimbing back to the "elbow" on Seal Rock.
Downclimbing back to the "elbow" on Seal Rock.
George Bell on the summit of Seal Rock, with the Goose in the background.  Photo by Warren Teissier.
George Bell on the summit of Seal Rock, with the G...
War 'n Peace on the beautiful finger crack on the upper east face.
War 'n Peace on the beautiful finger crack on the ...
Seal Rock's West Face as seen from the "pinpoint" west summit
Seal Rock's West Face as seen from the "pinpoint" ...
George "The Trashman" Bell high above Boulder at the shoulder on Seal Rock
George "The Trashman" Bell high above Boulder at t...
Sonya on an early morning tour of Seal Rock.
Sonya on an early morning tour of Seal Rock.
If there is any dispute as to what the rap anchor looks like... Taken 10/8/07
BETA PHOTO: If there is any dispute as to what the rap anchor ...
This is the route we took, with approximate belay locations and the rap chains.  Climbing more to the right at the start would have been more aesthetic, perhaps, but there didn't appear to be very good pro, so we stuck to the trees.
BETA PHOTO: This is the route we took, with approximate belay ...
Warren Teissier on the upper crack.  Note that the best holds are often not in the crack.
Warren Teissier on the upper crack. Note that the...
Rapping off the East Face North Side after the pitch with the "distinctive vertical crack."  I believe the rap station is also that for Sea of Joy.  (Photo by James Burns.)
Rapping off the East Face North Side after the pit...
Wendy coming up the ridge prior to the summit.
Wendy coming up the ridge prior to the summit.
Dan Mottinger running it out on the fun crack (not to be missed)
Dan Mottinger running it out on the fun crack (not...
Picnic on the ridge, summit pitch in the background.
Picnic on the ridge, summit pitch in the backgroun...
My brother Danny starting the first pitch runout on Seal Rock.  Note the rivulets of water melting off.  Hats off, Danny, to a bold lead!
My brother Danny starting the first pitch runout o...
Amy hard at work on the Crack pitch.
Amy hard at work on the Crack pitch.
A fixed pin on the north edge of one of the upper pitches...probably at least 25 years old
BETA PHOTO: A fixed pin on the north edge of one of the upper ...
Amy starting pitch one.
Amy starting pitch one.
Sea of Joy rappel station as of 19 July 09.
BETA PHOTO: Sea of Joy rappel station as of 19 July 09.
Summit view.
Summit view.
Bill Wright uncharacteristically at rest on the lower part of Seal Rock.
Bill Wright uncharacteristically at rest on the lo...
Cool featured rock on Seal Rock.  Warren Teissier approaches the upper portion of the route.
Cool featured rock on Seal Rock. Warren Teissier ...
Photo by James Burns.
Photo by James Burns.
East Face taked from the North/East trail approach.
BETA PHOTO: East Face taked from the North/East trail approach...
On the shoulder of the Seal.
On the shoulder of the Seal.
Carter soloing the face.
Carter soloing the face.
Charles swinging in the breezes on the way down from the Seal.
Charles swinging in the breezes on the way down fr...
Summit views on a cloudy March evening.
Summit views on a cloudy March evening.
Comments on East Face North Side/Seal Rock Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated May 16, 2013
By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
Aug 27, 2001

Hey, how can this route be 5.0 if the "Shortcut" is 5.4? Probably most people can't tell the difference, but this climb to me feels similar in difficulty to the standard East Face route on the 3rd Flatiron (called 5.2). The East Face South Side route is a bit harder. Near the top, you can either climb the crack or face to it's right.

If you are competent, this route is really fun to free solo. But you should TR it first. ;-)

By Mike Sofranko
Aug 28, 2001

Personally, I think of this route as F3+, but I figured that would just confuse the issue even more. Gerry Roach Rules!!!

By Anonymous Coward
Aug 30, 2001

My feeling is that the grade of this route should be determined only after rehearsal, under perfect conditions, and using the best beta possible-- preferably, supplied on site by Steve Levin ("headpointing" up alongside) and Alan Nelson (on rappel, bolt gun in hand).

By Dan Mottinger
Sep 6, 2001

A Fun Flatirons romp for any slabmonger. The obvious crack on the upper part of the route shouldn't be missed since it provides unique crack/slab climbing. I did the climb using only runners and hexes, save one nut in the crack.

By Bill Wright
May 16, 2002

This is such a good, fun scramble. I think it is the equal of the Third Flatiron in quality climbing. Doing this early in the morning will hook you for good on Flatiron scrambles.

By Jeff Gustafson
Sep 23, 2003
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV VD 3c

Excellent fun route w/ an adventure feel. Didn't see a soul while we were there.

By Charles Danforth
From: L'ville, CO
Sep 23, 2003
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV VD 3c R

Climbed this one on 9-21-03 with a party of three. 'Twas a memorable introduction to multi-pitch climbing and exposure for one of us and and interesting lead for the other two. Three and a half pitches up to the elbow and another two to the summit (50m ropes). The bottom couple pitches aren't that exciting or fun and I probably wouldn't do them again. Anchor possibilities at the end of P2 especially are minimal. Run it out to the tree if possible. The crack pitch is awesome and the buckety low-angle stuff above that is easy and spectacular. If I were to do it again, I'd skip the long bottom pitches and climb Shortcut to the good stuff. The crack is definitely not to be missed. Takes .75" gear like crazy and there are face holds all over.

The rap is probably the most exciting part of the climb; a "full" 50 meters off the vertical and overhung north face. Two bolts with an American Triangle rigging (ugg!) let you off, but be sure you're solid before squeezing through the narrow crack and onto the face. Half-way down the rap becomes free-hanging (first one I've done above ground in years) and the view is memorable.

I'm also confused as to how this rates 5.0. Yeah, it's not a hard route, but the crack pitch is easily a 5.4 IMHO.

By Jeff Gustafson
Oct 20, 2003
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV VD 3c

Climbed this again last Thursday, again saw no one else on the rock. I would rate this as solid 5.4, compared against the Third Flatiron at 5.2. The crack pitch near the top is very tasty for a beginning trad leader, takes great gear and is just steep enough to be exciting... The rap is spectacular, the first time I looked down from the anchors my stomach turned over.

By Cody Munger
From: Carson City, NV
Sep 24, 2005
rating: 5.3 3+ 10 III VD 3a

Fun crack. Should have done one of the harder variations to make the route a little shorter. Got to the crack on pitch 4.

Don't forget to bring two ropes for the rap. I only had a 60 m and ended up with a fun little downclimb of the Shortcut with my beginner placing gear and anchors for me on the "lead" (don't fall).

I also dropped my chalkbag on the downclimb. If somebody does that route soon, they'll get a free chalkbag with a half used chalk ball.

By Andy Leach
From: Fort Collins, CO
Mar 7, 2006

Here's a short movie of our climb on March 5, 2006: www.leachfam.com/securearea/1movie.php?movieid=10

By Gary Schmidt
From: Boulder, CO
Apr 10, 2006

Please inspect all the rap slings carefully, as the way they are configured, a lot of stress is being placed on the same part of the sling where it passes through the bolt hanger. So even if the sling looks new, it could be worn through at the bolt. (American triangle in hanger bolts?) That said, Seal Rock is a great summit, probably best thought of as a nice hike (could spring conditioning!) mixed with some good solid Flatiron rock leading to a spectacular rappel. It is also conveniently located between wildlife closures and thus accessible all year long.

By Luis Barandiaran
From: Longmont, CO
Jul 24, 2006
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV VD 3c R

My brother and I did the North Side of East Face on Saturday. What a beautiful climb! We found that the business is on the first 20 feet (if starting at the very bottom point of the slab). I would call it 5.4R, due to the slicker nature of the rock at soil level. After placing one piece 50 feet up, my bro' ran out the complete rope length (60m) to reach the upper tree (you can barely make it!). The second pitch went at one full rope length plus 30+ feet of simulclimbing to make it to the shoulder beneath the final "crack pitch". Some people have posted that they would not climb the beginning and hike straight to the shoulder (Shortcut 5.4)... I think that is a terrible mistake as the first two pitches are classic Flatiron climbing in a terrifc setting. Padding up the first 20' of runout slab on grey, powdery lichen'll get the blood flowing! Plus, once above the trees the rock is stellar...

The spiciest part of the whole climb however was definitely the rappel! I swore that the ropes would not touch the ground but they did... It would be a good idea to set up an auto-block on your harness to keep yourself in control. All in all, a fantastic, fun climb!

BTW - The "American Triangle" rigging mentioned above has been removed. Two sensibly measured pieces of "tat" are now there for your rappelling pleasure....

By Lee Smith
Apr 29, 2007

Why do people insist on rigging the north side rap with the American Triangle? I like to do Seal Rock every year and every year I cut a bunch of tat off the bolts because it is rigged AT. Also, if you are going to add a sling or rap rings make sure they extend over the edge, since it is very hard to pull the ropes and maybe dangerous to rap with the rope over the edge.

By Lee Smith
May 3, 2007

There is a fixed nut on the lower part of the finger crack above the shoulder. It looks like some serious attempts were made to remove it. I don't think it is worth anything as booty since it is really beat up, but it would be nice to get it out all the same.

By Lee Smith
May 18, 2007

I am not sure what size it was. It wasn't coming out, that's for sure!

By Luis Barandiaran
From: Longmont, CO
Jul 29, 2007
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV VD 3c R

I agree with Lee Smith's comment. While rapping off the route, one of the ropes was sawed through the sheath into the core. On the ground, after pulling the ropes and seeing the damage, my bro' and I looked at each other, very perturbed....

By Mike McMahon
From: Vernal, Utah
Oct 8, 2007

Cool climb. I unquestionably thought the crux was downclimbing the west face to the smaller west summit. A slip here would have dire consequences. Also, the very bottom 20 feet or so are really smooth (starting from the base of the formation on the NE side). I ended up downclimbing the ascent route to the 'elbow' and hopping off there.

By Steve Knapp
From: Highlands Ranch, CO
Nov 12, 2007
rating: 5.3 3+ 10 III VD 3a

Climbed this on Saturday with two other guys. Simul-climbed the entire route including the rap in one hour. It was awesome. The rap from the Sea of Joy is incredible. We were using twin ropes which did not supply much friction for the rappel. Wish I had brought gloves for that, ouch! Never saw anybody else up there. This is a great climb.

By Bill Snyder
From: Denver
Apr 21, 2008

Climbed this route last summer and then again on 4/12/08. Both times my partner and I were the only ones on the rock. First time we rapped the north face - exhilarating, second time we downclimbed the route - that was a lot of fun. Closer to 5.4 with a 5.5 move if you climb the cracks left of the arete above the big ledge.

By garrett
Jul 21, 2008

I know a lot of people are concerned about the rap anchors. They go through many variations way too frequently. Sometimes they look good and sometimes they don't. People seem to assume that they are old or something and so they change them, most of the time making them worse.

I've seen American triangles and as many as 5 rap rings, and I've seen, well, for lack of a better term, "Missouri Triangles." Someone, whether it's the CMC or just conscientious groups of people rapping off sometimes clean them up, but then they get changed sometimes every weekend.

I've never actually done the rap, but it's really annoying, and frightening, looking at the transformations, usually for the worse, of these anchors on a frequent basis. The webbing gets changed almost every month, so it's not old, so don't worry about the age. I know it's a scary rap, but constant changes by inexperienced climbers does more harm than good. So, please, if you know what you're doing and they don't look right, then by all means fix them, but if you don't know what you're doing and your not sure, you might be making them worse.

By Rick Blair
From: Denver
Nov 1, 2008
rating: 5.3 3+ 10 III VD 3a PG13

I reluctantly gave this a PG-13, there are run-outs but they only occur where the climbing is easiest. I started P1 near the ridge but at the end had to traverse way left for the only suitable belay anchor pro. After you start P1, look and aim for the trees, there are some great belay spots there! Run the rope out all the way! 60m. Make P3 short and belay in the gully, from there follow the finger crack on P4 to the top, great crack! I clipped an enormous bong on P4, that thing is old and even has some damage from whomever tried to remove it, but I bet it would still hold a car. The summit is awesome, huge, including a small "lake".

If no one objects, the next time I go I will put 2 quick links on the hangers, connect 2 chains with 2 more quick links on the ends. That rap anchor is an unsightly mess, I guess it has never garnered any attention because you can't see it from the ground. If you are very brave, you could rap this with one rope, there are 2 different hanging anchors ~30m down. One on the rappeler's right has a small ledge to stand on.

By DamageVic
From: Coal Creek Canyon, CO
Jul 19, 2009
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV VD 3c PG13

Climbed this today. 3 pitches to the neck/elbow/gully were fun...but the 4th/crack pitch was AWESOME! Great rock, as much gear as you want to place (small cams, nuts to ~1" & Loweballs/Ball Nuts)- just loads of fun.
Had a great time!
Included a photo of the current state of the rappel anchor. Could still use a couple quick links & chain to clean it up!

By DamageVic
From: Coal Creek Canyon, CO
Jul 26, 2009
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV VD 3c PG13

Another trip up the Seal...another great time.
Made measurements (actually hauled a tape measure up there) to install chains at the rappel station- may just have to do this as a public service.

Also, I found a gray chalk bag at the base of the rappel- so if anyone lost it you're welcome to claim it.

By DamageVic
From: Coal Creek Canyon, CO
Aug 15, 2009
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV VD 3c PG13

No More Funky Webbing!!
As our contribution to the climbing community my wife and I placed two lengths of 3/8" 316L stainless steel chain, each with two quick links (also stainless steel, on either end for wear purposes), on the anchor/rappel station. Please see the above photo (next to my photo of the way it looked the last time we were up there), also posted on the Seal Rock main page.

The rope is safely over the edge of the North face and the weight appears to be equally distributed between the bolts. Happy climbing!!

By Jason Haas
From: Broomfield, CO
Aug 16, 2009

Thanks for doing that Vic, lots of people will really appreciate your contribution.

By SuperDave
Jun 27, 2010
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV VD 3c PG13

Adam and I did Seal Rock today, up the northern side of the east face. Very nice climb on sold rock. 4 full pitches with a 60 m rope, plus a 40' 5th pitch to the summit. 2nd and 4th pitches were the best. The 4th pitch up a thin finger crack was outstanding. Don't worry, there are lots of face holds--you don't have to crack climb it, but the crack eats medium sized nuts.

For the rappel descent down Sea of Joy, it would have been much nicer to have brought a second 60 m rope. Then you could do it in one double-rope rappel. With a single 60 m rope, stop at the first anchor you see on Sea of Joy (the bottom of the 5.13a section). A 60 m rope from here will get to you a ledge that is easy to downclimb to the ground. I wouldn't want to try this with a 50 m rope.

On the summit there are many bathtubs with water in them, including some miniscule (1 cm long) two-eyed creatues with tails that seem to be tadpoles. How did they get here?

One tip about the approach: when you can see the bars on Harmon Cave through the trees (about 200 feet before you reach Harmon Cave), look left (west) for a reasonably well-defined trail that will lead nicely to the start of the climb. You should not need to bushwhack.

This is a great climb, and generally not runout for a Flatiron east face.

By Rick Casey
From: Lafayette, Colorado
Oct 11, 2010

If anybody happens to find a trail shoe sitting on the rock somewhere on this route (before winter sets in), if you could throw it in your pack and let me know, I'd appreciate it. A friend of mine had it get pushed off the biner it was attached to near the summit. Thanks much!

By Chris D
From: the couch
Jun 5, 2011
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV VD 3c PG13

Climbed this route yesterday. Great little adventure with a couple of quality sections of climbing and an awesome summit.

The idea that it is difficult to find/build adequate anchors anywhere on this route could only come from someone who planned poorly. With a 60m rope, the pitches described below leave between ten and thirty feet of rope between belays.

Here's how we climbed it:

P1: The first pitch begins after a short scramble up and to the left about fifteen feet from where the easy-to-follow trail (just past gated Harmon cave) meets the toe of seal rock. After climbing some grungy dirty slab up through trees, belay from below a nice tree just as the dense trees start to peter out.

P2: From there, climb up and right over cleaner slab toward the right edge of the rock, reaching the edge near a pine branch that hangs out over the rock from below. This pitch and the next have only widely-spaced opportunities for pro (I think I got three pieces including slung veg on P2), but the climbing is so easy that it shouldn't be a concern if you are sober. Probably not the best choice for somone not comfortable leading 5.5, or those with no multi-pitch experience.

P3: Set up your belay at the top of P2 shortly after the steep lichen covered north face come into view above. Plenty of cracks and a tree for gear. Climb P3 along the ridge to the notch. There's a super belay spot right below P4's obvious finger crack above.

P4: From the notch where you are belaying, climb straight up some of the best climbing at the grade you'll ever do. As others have pointed out the crack will eat gear from around C4 0.75 down to tiny nuts. Belay where the crack closes into a seam (great gear opportunities to the right of the seam).

P5: The short pitch to the summit is easy but pro is pretty sparse (compared to P4, anyway). Yesterday, there was webbing with a rap ring on a small natural arch at the summit proper for those uncomfortable downclimbing from the summit to the rap chains.

A great adventure in the Flatirons. Be prepared to be patient if you take a brand new climber up this route...the rap down Sea of Joy will terrify anyone not accustomed to long, steep rappels. I took a new climber with me and belayed him (from an anchor built just above the rap chains...good cracks there) with one rope while he rapped on the other. Worked great.

Really glad I did this fun, easy, and memorable route. Don't use the shortcut to skip the first three pitches. Why would you walk two miles to do one pitch of 5.4 instead of make a little adventure out of it? Who would rather hike up the downclimb than run up the slab? I don't get that.

Some fun videos and some photos.

By emp
Nov 8, 2011

Climbed this on Halloween of 2012 and had the misfortune of forgetting to unclip one strand from the anchor. To our dismay, we were unable to pull the ropes (a 1/2 double and a 60m 10.2 Bluewater rope). If the finders would be kind enough to return them, I'd be happy to offer a (modest but reasonable) cash reward.

By Mark Roth
From: Boulder
Nov 8, 2011

emp wrote:
Climbed this on Halloween of 2012


Just get back in your time machine and unclip the anchor.... Only kidding with you. Hope you get them back.

By Ward Mitchell
Apr 9, 2012

Hey emp, went and climbed the route on 4/8/12 and oddly enough met the guy who has your rope and was using it, did not get his name, and it doesn't sound like he's giving it back, anyway just an FYI.

By CJ Coccia
From: Boulder, CO
May 27, 2012
rating: 5.4 4a 12 IV VD 3c

Climbed the route today swapping leads with Adam K. Overall, it is a great route and an incredible intro to multi-fun for the newer of the new. Completely running out a 70m to its end gave us the ability to do the route in 4 pitches (with the last pitch being all of 20 feet).

As far as gear is concerned, I found this to be much more accepting than a typical Flatirons route, there are placements where you may want them to be for the first two pitches and the third pitch (the crack pitch) eats up everything your heart desires (0.75 to 1.00 inch cams and medium to small nuts depending on where you are)... or maybe the crack desires. Actually got a small, green CAMP nut stuck, so if the team behind us didn't get it, then it is all yours. Didn't place anything for the 4th pitch, but as I said, we had about 20-30 feet left to the summit after the third pitch.

The rap is a rap of a lifetime, very exposed squeezing around to the face to finally make your descent. Very impressive to me that people have been working on the 13a!

Overall, a great route and for those who have any hesitation about leading it...you will do fine as long as your are comfortable leading 5.5. Great gear, great face, well-featured, excellent views and incredible rappel...what more do you need? Bring some food with you to the top and celebrate on a patio-sized summit and enjoy the view!

By doze
From: Denver, CO
Jan 27, 2013

Crack/holds on the last pitch are simply phenomenal.

By Pink Thunder
From: Colorado Springs
May 16, 2013

This route is an absolute blast. No reason whatsoever to take gear; the downclimb from the top is easy and full of jugs. Just gotta keep an eye open for the path of least resistance.

Also, to get off the rock without a rope, just get to the big shoulder on the north side, scoot down a bit from the notch, and above a tree with some green slings on it is a short overhang that is easy to downclimb to the trail below. It's fairly obvious; much less lichen than on the surrounding bulges.