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Sketchy Soloing in Flatirons?
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By Will R.
Apr 17, 2012

I'm curious, has anyone else gotten themselves into uncomfortable situations soloing in the flatirons? I picked up Roach's book, saw 1,000' rated at 5.6 and immediately said "I'm there". What I failed to take into account was that I had no experience in the flatirons and more importantly, minimal experience with slabs. Meaning I couldn't remember the last time I climbed one. But 5.6?? I'd could walk up that. Everything here begs to be free soloed. Suckered in. It's much more committing than you think, and before I figured this place out, I got myself into a few heart pounding, compulsively chalking, almost a statistic situations. I'm sure half of you ran up the direct route your first time, barefoot and blindfolded without even knowing what sandstone was. For the rest of you, have you ever been lured into onsight solos you maybe should have roped up for? Please no speeches about the evils of onsight soloing. We all make our own decisions and I try to make mine responsibly. I'll concede that in my situation a little more respect for the rock might have been warranted.


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By Joe Huggins
From 666 Rue le Jour-Edge City
Apr 17, 2012
mmmm....tree

Yes, I have. Maintaining your equanimity when the situation gets scary is the attribute that allows you to grow into an accomplished soloist. And, remember-you still have to get down again;the flatirons can be pretty dicey that way. In thirty plus years since my first solo,most of the sketch has involved getting down.

EDIT-btw...what is it with so many climbers dissing slabs? If you think slabs are easy,go hang in Tuolumne for a while. Do a barely there .10c crux twenty feet above a quarter inch bolt; then tell me slabs are dull or easy, or whatever. Not addressing this comment to you, necessarily, Will. Just a general peeve.


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By NYClimber
From New York
Apr 17, 2012
Awesome slab climb right out of the water! Rogers Rock, Lake George, NY. Summer 2013.

Here in the East we have our own slab climbing as well - the infamous Chapel Pond Slabs in Keene Valley, NY. Even a 5.5 on the slab can be mighty scary with it's long run-outs, exposure and 'lack or grip of your rock shoes' that so many newbies (incl myself) have felt. Slab climbing is a entirely different bear indeed - fun - but none-the-less challenging.


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By David A
From Boulder, CO
Apr 17, 2012
Hanging out after climbing a route in Eldo on a cold day.

Smoother, in the Flatirons. That was the headiest solo, but even if you were roped up, you'd still be essentially soloing.


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By NYClimber
From New York
Apr 17, 2012
Awesome slab climb right out of the water! Rogers Rock, Lake George, NY. Summer 2013.

Yikes! :o


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By Alex Whitman
Apr 17, 2012
Luxury Liner, Indian Creek

Well I guess I have sketchy solo story for you. Not exactly sketchy, but definitely spicy.

I was passing through Boulder a couple of years ago and had always wanted to climb on the Flatirons. I swung into Neptune and gave the guide a read and grabbed some beta from one of the employees. All seemed good; I was going to get my bearings and a feel for the rock on a 4th class route on the 2nd and then solo The Direct Route.

The 2nd went swimingly, I was practically running around on the thing being stoked on life. I hiked down, nibbled a little lunch (mistake, more calories are good for the brain) and began my way up the 1st. Again all was fine, I was having a good time, kinda wishing it was a little harder. After around pitch three or four The Direct Route heads left, I think. I spied a beautiful, chalkless (hint) line up and right through some mini overlaps and up into the realm of giant holds. So off I go. I know I am no longer on the official Direct Route, but the place is a sea of holds and you could pretty much climb anywhere.

This is where things got interesting (surprise). I began to realize that after a few hundred feet of climbing slab with little rest, I couldn't feel my feet very well. I also began to realize that this variation was harder than I had bargained for. The line was very obvious and I knew I wasn't going to fall (that wasn't an option) but I had to give myself a good couple of pep talks and remind myself that this was why I was here. I very clearly remember one move to an edge that was the make or break move, all I had to do was grab it and it was over, but it was sooo far away. Little feet and smear time, yikes. At time I remember thinking, well there is no gear here anyway so you would be soloing regardless, better enjoy it.

I survived and summited just as it began to rain. I quickly downclimbed and called my mother to tell her I had made it to CO. Obviously not an adventure that can really be justified with words (They should have sent a poet. "Contact," anyone? anyone?). But the weirdest part of it all was realizing at times when I was a few hundred feet off of the deck that my mind would wander, thinking about trivial things, like dinner, and not the task at hand (aka: not dyeing).

Oh, and I got home and looked in an old guide that mentions the variation. It says something along the lines of "Leaves the rack in general disuse. 5.9" My first 5.9 solo, oops.


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By Joe Huggins
From 666 Rue le Jour-Edge City
Apr 17, 2012
mmmm....tree

shuminW wrote:
Cause hard slabs don't really climb any differently than easy slabs? Step, reach, or some sequences of those 2 moves. Doesn't this prove the point? The only excitement on a slab is the runout, which isn't unique to slab climbing.

Yeah, whatever


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By CJC
Apr 17, 2012

johnL wrote:
My feet get so pissed whenever I think about this stuff.


haha that's true


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By Glenn Schuler
From Monument, Co.
Apr 17, 2012
A grey fox skull wedged in a crack 100' up on a FA I was working on - don't see that every day...

johnL wrote:
I'm developing a slab climbing shoe. Stiff and sticky of course but several needles inside near the toes. You have a cortisone pump on your waist to control the level of pain relief needed.


sounds pretty sweet, but are they made of cardboard?


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By PosiDave
Apr 17, 2012

I got suckered into onsight soloing Pineline at night. they said it was a 5.2 with a first few feet of 5.6. needless to say I topped out after having a aneurysm and was told we just did Pineline. the following day I was told Swan Slab Gully was 5.2 and went up on that.

Both experiences were pretty sketch at the time, but also the greatest time I had climbing.


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By Peter Franzen
Administrator
From Phoenix, AZ
Apr 17, 2012
Belay

Will R. wrote:
What I failed to take into account was that I had no experience in the flatirons and more importantly, minimal experience with slabs.

Perhaps you should reconsider your approach to soloing.


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By Dave Cummings
From Grand Junction, CO
Apr 17, 2012
me on my redpoint

I don't want to sound harsh but if soloing isn't casual in the flatirons then you def shouldn't be soloing, I soloed for years and the flatirons are as casual as soloing gets in fact it can be more like extreme hiking then soloing. Soloing takes the highest levels of skill and mental focus and getting freaked on a climb like the 1st flatiron means that your not ready and maybe you never will be.


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By JonnycageMT
Apr 17, 2012

So Here's the thing, if you don't feel comfortable soloing, then guess what you're human. Soloing is dangerous. But take it like a man, and realize that just because you can buy climbing gear next to the ladies yoga pants at REI doesn't mean its safe, its not. That being said soloing can be some of the most full you'll ever have climbing. I think the times I was in the most danger, were the best I've ever had. And that's more or less the thing.


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By Fat Dad
From Los Angeles, CA
Apr 17, 2012

On my first trip to Boulder, I found myself partnerless so I soloed the East Face of the First. I figured that if I was comfortable on the first pitch, which is 5.6 and pretty unprotected, if I remember correctly, that the rest of the route shouldn't be a problem. Good in theory, but I did encounter a sketchy section higher up where a rope would have been much appreciated. Still, I earned my chops on slab climbing venues such as Suicide and Joshua Tree. Despite that, 5.6 still felt scary at times.

The short answer is, if you have to ask, don't do it.


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By George Bell
From Boulder, CO
Apr 17, 2012
Hip trouble ...

Soloing well below your limit can be a lot of fun and addicting. However, I believe that most soloing accidents happen when something unexpected happens. You handhold could break off, even on a 4th class route. On the 3rd Flatiron, somebody could drop a piece of gear on you. It might rain. You could go the wrong way. When you think about it, there are hundreds of unexpected dangerous things that might happen to you, and most of them have not so much to do with the technical difficulty of the route, but how big a cliff is below you.

Many people will throw up their hands and ignore these "objective hazards". Why worry about something you have no control over? But the truth is you CAN control them to some extent. For example, now I will never solo a route I have not climbed before. I climb with three points of contact so a hold breaking is not a disaster. I try to stay off the 3rd Flatiron when it is crowded or the weather is iffy. The Flatirons also have very little in the way of loose rock and holds to break off.

Stay safe!


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By George Bell
From Boulder, CO
Apr 17, 2012
Hip trouble ...

Strangely though, the worst accident I had in the Flatirons was when I was roped up on lead! On a route rated 5.0! I still have no idea why I suddenly started to fall. The worst part was that a friend was free soloing 15 feet below me, and I could have knocked him off. The good news is that I managed to dynamically grab onto a huge flake just before I would have crashed into him. I suffered nothing worse than some nasty abrasions. My friend was untouched, and the bottle of champagne I was carrying survived intact!

This is the story behind our ascent of an otherwise obscure Flatirons route Sight Flight.


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By Richard Radcliffe
From Louisville, CO
Apr 17, 2012

George Bell wrote:
Strangely though, the worst accident I had in the Flatirons was when I was roped up on lead!

Your story reminds me of when my buddy and I took his kid up the first. We were at the top one pitch back from the rap anchors waiting for another party to finish rapping off (Lynn Hill, no less, and some beginner friends). After a while, a couple Brits show up, one of whom had very bloody shins. He was leading, somehow lost his footing, and started to slide. Just as he was really getting going, he hit a ledge and stopped. Without that ledge, he'd have taken a tumbling 60 or 70 footer. No fun on a 60 degree slab.

Of all the Flatirons soloing hazards that George mentioned, getting off "route" is perhaps the easiest and most frightening thing to do. Been there a couple times...


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By T.Dailey
From Avon
Apr 17, 2012
Morning #1 of 25

My first day in the Flatirons I was hiking around checking the rock out, walking from Chautauqua to Der Zerkle!....what's NCAR? Anyway, I was on my way back and I passed this guy with just shoes and a chalk bag. We exchanged small talk and he told me he was "going for a quick solo" and invited me along. I think the route is called "What if your not". Initially he told me it was 5.9 but as I was climbing up after him he kept saying "if it feels harder than 5.8, your doing it wrong. It was pretty scary at first pulling on huge hueco's and flakes, but after a few laps I got used to it. Probably one of the best days I've had in the Flatirons, it was soloing but not really that sketchy. Maybe that's why it was so good.


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By Mingus
Apr 17, 2012

George Bell wrote:
...and the bottle of champagne I was carrying survived intact!


Way to preserve the precious cargo, George! That's my kind of Flatiron ascent.


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By Richard Radcliffe
From Louisville, CO
Apr 17, 2012

T.Dailey wrote:
....what's NCAR?

It's where The Nose got flattened by a steam roller.


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By Dave Cummings
From Grand Junction, CO
Apr 17, 2012
me on my redpoint

JonnycageMT wrote:
But take it like a man, and realize that just because you can buy climbing gear next to the ladies yoga pants at REI doesn't mean its safe, its not.


LOL so true!


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By Will R.
Apr 18, 2012

Dave,

I wouldn't call it a freak out, I would call it a serious "oh crap" moment followed quickly by a return to focused and logical thinking. You'd be lying if you said you never had one single doubt climbing. I'm pretty new (not super strong rock crusher). I boulder V5, I lead 5.11 but I also solo 5.9 on a fairly regular basis. I am very familiar with the mindset this style requires, or for me, creates. What I'm talking about is being unfamiliar with an area and getting off route without a rope. I can attest that an uninformed person can end up in areas that are absolutely not "adventurous hiking" on these rocks, and it doesn't help to be wearing approach shoes. In any case it turned out to be a fantastic climb, and of course the sketchiness ended up being what made it great. But what do I know? Time to get into my yoga pants and turn on my nightlight I guess.


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By Matt N
From Santa Barbara, CA
Apr 18, 2012
OTL

Really?

I get to be the first?

























YER GONNA DIE!!!


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By Dave Cummings
From Grand Junction, CO
Apr 18, 2012
me on my redpoint

For sure we all have had moments of getting scared, all part of the experience I suppose. I guess I should share a story as well, I have had a few scary moments over the last 15 years but most due to scary aid, bad gear, or bad weather. Maybe the worst was having to finish the first pitch of Hair City in Eldorado in the rain, never want to have to do that again, yikes just gives me shivers thinking about it. Glad you were still psyched when you got to the top. Have fun and be safe out there!


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By Stich
From Colorado Springs, Colorado
Apr 18, 2012
Coffee after freezing our asses off near James Peak.

Richard Radcliffe wrote:
It's where The Nose got flattened by a steam roller.




Our leader!!!!


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By Joe Huggins
From 666 Rue le Jour-Edge City
Apr 18, 2012
mmmm....tree

Stich wrote:
Our leader!!!!

"We should have had sex...but there weren't enough people."
"I know! We'll use the Orgasmatron!"
When I read that earlier bit, I was like...huh? I had completely forgotten about the Leader's nose.


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