The Flatirons present a bewildering maze of rock above and to the south of Boulder. Many famous rocks and routes grace this area. The First and Third Flatirons reign over downtown Boulder. A couple miles to the south, the Slab's squat mass dominates. Just north of Eldorado Canyon, the Devil's Thumb dominates the skyline. However, the true ruler of this area is the Maiden, unique among the Flatirons.
Viewed from the east, this crag is a nearly invisible blade of rock tucked in between other seemingly more substantial flatirons. However, while driving to Eldorado Canyon, the careful eye will discern the true nature of the Maiden. From the south, the Maiden is shaped like a dolphin leaping up the wave of the foothills. Climbers will immediately notice the imposing overhang on its west side as well as the vertical nature of its east ridge. No other summit in the Boulder area appears more improbable.
Up close, the effect is amplified rather than diminished. The east ridge terminates in the trees with a disturbingly narrow girth. The north and south faces are sheer, and the low angle west ridge terminates at a narrow vertical west face that leads to the amazing west overhang and the summit. Like Wyoming's Devil's Tower and Utah's Ancient Art, the Maiden appears to be of other-worldly construction.
One of the highlights of any ascent of the Maiden is actually the descent. The rappel off the summit and over the West overhang is simply unbelievable. After completing this rappel for the first time, I couldn't believe that kind of excitement was both free and legal.
The Maiden sports routes of all levels of difficulty. The easiest route is the convoluted North Face at 5.6. Next up is the South Face at 5.8. The narrow East Ridge is climbed with a couple pitches of 5.10, and the fearsome West Overhang can be breached with a pitch of 5.11. Other routes of note are South Crack (5.11) and Cunning Stunt (5.11-).
The Maiden is a bit of a hike from the trailhead which tends to keep the crowds to a minimum. Begin at the southern end of the Mesa Trail, and hike until directly below the Maiden, which will be hidden in the trees. The Shadow Canyon trail connects to the Mesa Trail at an old water trough. The water trough is on the east side of the trail at a bend in the trail and is obvious. Turn left on the Shadow Canyon trail and walk up this for a couple minutes (don't go too far). Begin looking to the right through the trees. When talus is visible, follow a faint path through the woods (watch for poison ivy) to the talus. You should be near an old shallow quarry pit. A wall will be visible up the unstable talus slope, which marks an old stretch of access road for the quarry. The talus is bordered on the right by a strip of trees. There is a faint path up through the strip of trees - follow that, or scramble directly to the road. The road goes through the strip of trees - at this point head up a path that follows the strip of trees. Eventually, this steep path will deposit you at the base of the East Ridge. Allow a couple hours for the approach and plan on maybe getting lost the first time.
To descend from the summit, make a double rope rappel from slings down over the West Overhang . This will deposit you at the Crow's Nest. From there, either reverse the first half of the North Face route, or do another double rope rappel from the bolt down the south face.
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for The Maiden:
Yet another slabby east face route in the Flatirons. Yawn....Not!!!!This exceedingly cool route climbs the narrow eastern profile of the Maiden. Rack up at the low point of the rock.P1. Either step in from the right, or scramble up from below, and engage the obvious crack a couple feet left of the sharp NE arete. Climb the crack for about 60 or 70 feet to a ledgy blocky stance. The crack is steep and sustained and skill in jamming will definitely increase your chances of success. Call it so...[more]Browse More Classics in CO
Mike's comment that it is "a bit of a hike" is no understatment. Perhaps since we thought it was just a flatirons jaunt and thus maybe a 30 minute approach.... allow 1 1/2 - 2 hours for the approach, especially the first time - we got lost.
When you get to the talus (30 yards off the trail) - head DUE NORTH - don't get sucked up and into the talus - you'll find the trail which expands to a road, then probably 300 yards along see a faint trail heading straight up. Damn, that was a long hike.
As stated by Mike, this is the mother of all rappels.
We were able to do both rappels (independently) with a 60M rope. Grant it, there was not a lot of rope left, but it was comfortable enough. Also, there was no wind the day we did this.
Now, I have heard horror stories of people being swung out by the wind away from the crow's nest and having to time the descent with the variations in the wind... Needless to say this would be even more horrific if all you had left were 10 feet of rope as you swung over 100ft of air...
So, make sure your rope was cut to the appropriate length at the factory and tie them ends. Enjoy the rush... Lot's of nervous giggling usually follows the first rappel...
Who needs a GPS when you can do it the old fashioned way? Here is the info you've been waiting for: As described above, the Shadow Canyon Trail intersects the Mesa Trail at an obvious water trough. From the Mesa Trail, take between 192 (for taller folks) and 233 (for shorter folks) steps up the Shadow Canyon Trail. Then, head right through the trees and poison ivy to the quarry. Follow my directions from there.
I didn't time us on the way in, but the hike out took exactly 1 hour (very casual pace) from the bottom of the Maiden to the South Mesa trailhead. Of course, it's mostly all mellow downhill.
Myke is actually describing a slightly different approach in his comment. It sounds to me like he is saying to continue further up the Shadow Canyon Trail, then head right and walk directly to the quarry road. This way may indeed be better, but it probably doesn't matter too much. Heck, the first time I tried to get there I ended up thrashing around below the Fatiron, so any way is better than that.
My point is that my step count probably won't match his GPS coordinates.
Be careful about the weather when you attempt this climb.
The weather was great before the last pitch yesterday on the North Ridge. It got very windy and made the rappeller feel as if being dropped from a helicopter. It was hard to hit the crow's nest and even harder to pull the ropes.
We couldn't pull them and had to rap from the summit to the bottom and get the ropes this morning when the wind died down.
Another approach (as showed to me by Josh Janes):This is a nice alternative, but may not save any time. Go up this way and down one of the other ways to do a loop.Immediately after starting up the Mesa Trail, turn left on the Towhee Trail. Follow this good trail steadily up until it joins the Shadow Canyon trail (a good dirt road). Turn left on the Shadow Canyon trail, pass below the Matron, and pass some structures, until you are at the mouth of Shadow Canyon (small stream crossing here). Turn right on a small trail (with sign) that connects to the Mesa Trail. This is the same "Shadow Canyon" trail mentioned above. Gently down (not too much elevation loss), until you come to the flat quarry "road" mentioned by Myke above.
Make sure you take the third Shadow Canyon turnoff from the Mesa Trail. I got confused because I hit 2 turnoffs to Shadow Canyon before giving up because I thought maybe the water trough was gone (it won't be, quite permanent).
Also, it's in your best interest go up on the south side of the Maiden. The north side is very difficult comparatively. Filled with huge boulders, downed trees, and overgrown with ferns and raspberrys.
Just an FYI. I climbed on the Maiden yesterday and was able to do two single rope (60M) raps from the bolts at the notch at the top of crux pitch on the South Face. 1st rap is about 40-50ft with a swing over to the 2 bolt anchor. 2nd rap just gets you to the ground with rope stretch (110 ft.)
The approach isn't bad and would be considered an easy to moderate approach at other destinations (e.g. Red Rocks). We followed the instructions above and reached the base of the East Ridge in 65 minutes at a brisk walking pace. Just follow the cairns and make sure you locate the faint path through the trees to the right of the talus.
There is an application for a new climb on the south side of the Maiden, our only application for the August 2012 cycle of the Fixed Hardware Review Committee of the Flatirons Climbing Council. Details can be found at the link below; the public meeting and vote will be held Wednesday, September 5 at 6:30 p.m. at The Spot gym (thespotgym.com), Boulder, Colorado. The deadline for the next cycle is January 1, 2013, though applications should be submitted in advance if possible.
Please note that the application for the Hueco Wall, south face of the Maiden, has been updated to include a possible third pitch, which would have been brought up at the public meeting in any case. You can still view and comment on the application at flatironsclimbingcouncil.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/august-201>>>
The public vote and meeting is September 5, 6:30 p.m. at The Spot gym in Boulder, Colorado.