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This is the final exam for all the Flatiron slab-mongers out there. This route is characterized by its sustained nature, tricky route finding, dirty and sometimes suspect rock, and high commitment level. Definitely not your typical casual Flatiron scramble. The guides I have are pretty vague when it comes to details about the route. In an effort to not ruin your adventure, I'll try to take the same approach.
HIke into Skunk Canyon. Once past Ridge One (Stairway to Heaven), head up the next gully - between Ridge One and Ridge Two. Ridge Two is Satan's Slab. This gully is steep and rocky and some minor scrambling is required. The route begins about a hundred feet or so up the gully. Directly above you will see a very shallow trough that looks to be a foot or two wide and is very dark. It looked wet to me, but the dark color was due to the very dry moss growing on this obvious drainage for the slab above.
From the ground, work out a pitch to the bottom of the trough.. Your route finding skills will be tested immediately. The next (crux) pitch follows the trough for a rope length of sustained and pro-less face climbing. The rock is sometimes flakey, the flakes are sometimes flexy, the trough is mossy, and the holds are thin. Enjoy, this is the pitch you're here for. You could probably 'protect' this pitch with some hooks, but...
After a ropelength you will reach a large pothole area. From here, use your now warmed-up route finding skills and pick a way to the top of the ridge. Some more steep scrambling will lead to level section, which ends at a headwall. This headwall, the start of the second piece of Satan's Slab, was the route finding crux for me, and I'm pretty sure I went the wrong way.
Once you're past the second piece (you will have a short downclimb if you go right over the top of it) you will be on the broken (and brief) 3rd piece. Negotiate your way across and over this, where you will be confronted by some huge house-sized boulders. Just past the boulders is another headwall (the beginning of the 4th piece), which will require the use of your well-honed route finding skills once again.
The summit of the 4th piece is the summit of Satan's Slab. The summit area is split by a large crack, you will cross it to reach the true summit. From the summit, look down the west face. You should see a narrow ledge... This is the easy 4th class downclimb.
Descent: The gully to the west of Satan's Slab has some poison ivy, but it was avoidable the last time I was down there. Or, you can descend the gully between Satan's Slab and Stairway to Heaven. Or, head due east, past the summits of Stairway to Heaven and Hillbilly Rock and down to the draw east of Hillbilly, where you will find a trail. Heading down the last two ways involves negotiating a very steep and loose hillside to the north of the summit block.
Warren Teissier near the top of the second pitch o...
George Bell following the third pitch of the East ...
A closeup of the last shot showing the #4 Ca...
|By George Bell|
From: Boulder, CO
Dec 9, 2001
Warren [Teissier] and I climbed this on 12/9/01. A moderate size cam or two can be useful (#3-#4 Camalot) in spots (like the second belay), although they are not mandatory. Expect huge runouts in certain places, and I agree with Mike's comments about the "flexy flakes". In some spots the only (potential) pro is behind these, yet an Alien rips out easily with a good tug due to the flexiness. This route perhaps should have a "vs" seriousness rating. The rock, though, is for the most part quite sound and you don't have to crank on any "flexy flakes".
|By Warren Teissier|
Dec 10, 2001
In an effort not to ruin Mike's cryptic set up of the route description, but in the interest of safety (and after checking with him), here it goes:
We used a 60M rope for this climb
First belay: 10 feet right of the base of the trough at a small crack/flake (bomber pieces)
Second belay: 60 meters (200ft) farther up in a small bowl at the top of the trough. A 50M rope will obviously NOT reach. For those of you with 50M ropes there seems to be a flake right and slightly below the bowl. Not sure you can protect under it, but you can sling it, allowing for a hanging belay from one piece...
Big pieces allow for the set up of belay number 2
|By Guy H.|
From: Fort Collins CO
Dec 12, 2001
The "666"th picture submitted to the database is for Satan's Slab. Things that make you say Hmmmm....
|By Old Fart aka Dave Bohn|
Jan 19, 2002
I climbed this route in October '73 with Doug Hahn and not finding a description in my still new copy of "High Over Boulder" named this route "Purgatory". The topo I drew back then is still readable in the back of the book as is my original route description. "Start below prominent black streak at platform behind pine tree. Climb up "nipple rock" to crack. Follow crack to bowl. From bowl,climb straight up (crux) to ridge." We did it with a 120' cord and I remember getting to the end of the rope and having to simul-climb a ways to get to the bowl with one hex in somewhere half way up. Yeah, 30yrs later I still remember- this thing was way run-out! Enjoy!
|By Guy H.|
From: Fort Collins CO
Feb 4, 2002
Hey Dave, (a.k.a. Old Fart) I think you are right. It looks like you did the first ascent in '73. I checked Rossiter's guide book and the first documented ascent was by Roach in '74. I can't imagine doing this route with a 120 foot rope.
|By George Bell|
From: Boulder, CO
Feb 25, 2003
"Final slabmonger exam" is a good term for this climb. This route, together with Smoother on the West Ironing Board, are significantly more runout than any other slab climbs I've done in the Flatirons, I think they deserve VS or X ratings. On the second pitch of this climb, the only decent pro in 200' was a big flake about 30' up and a medium stopper in a pocket about halfway. I did place a few Aliens but they wouldn't have held a fall.
The crack at the second belay also necks down from over 4" to less than 2", so you don't have to take any huge cams (although a #4 Camalot is useful on pitch 3). But I would take a 60m rope (or none at all). This climb always looks wet due to dark moss and lichen in the waterstreak, which provides a good excuse to pass it by. The Kor/Ament route (called "Satan's Slab" in Rossiter) is the best route on this rock in my opinion.
|By Tony B|
From: Around Boulder, CO
Nov 26, 2006
rating: 5.6 4c 14 V S 4b X
Climb mostly right of the mossy trough. With a 70M rope we climbed this as such:
P1: Start up below the "window" of rock 5 meters up and through that to a bulge. Pull the bulge on good fingers, but high-step feet to beat the crux. Climb on to the right side of the runnel, avoiding crap rock. Pro is mostly non-existent. I found some cam placements behind funky flakes at 20 and 30 meters or there-abouts. Continue... at 70m your partner will start simul climbing. Just as (s)he arrives at the crux bulge you will have traversed left to the runnel where there are some sizable huecos and placed a #4 Camalot SOLID sideways in one of them... or maybe it was a new-style #5. Point is, it was good gear and you can place this and clip it with a 2' runner for the second to do the crux. 10 meters more simul climbing and you are at a good ledge to belay from a stance on.
P2: From the belay, go up and right to a second, smaller ledge, the up and right to a slight rib of rack, still right of the main runnel. Pro will start popping up, and the difficulty here is maybe 5.4 or less. You will reach the ridge easily within your rope length.
Oct 24, 2010
Woo-hoo! Did this today...just bouldered it out- but honestly...a rope would be kinda worthless on that 2nd pitch...very committing climbing, steeper than it looks, and a bona fide "X" route. But also some of the best rock I've seen in the Flatirons.... Have fun!!