Sunday, January 24, 2016

Jan 18 - Jan 24 & A Somewhat Brief Raison D'Etre for Scrambling

1/18, Monday - Off
One last day completely in recovery mode.

1/19, Tuesday - Bike: Boulder Res - 20 miles, 800', 1:11
An easy but cold ride around the reservoir. It was good to get the legs moving, even if it was minimal.

1/20, Wednesday - Bike: Boulder Res - 26 miles, 1200', 1:31
Generally the same ride as yesterday but I stretched the loop a bit wider for the extra miles. I tried wearing plastic grocery bags over my socks today, and my feet never entered the ice blocks state they did yesterday. So, that was a huge plus.

1/21, Thursday - Bike: Lee Hill + Lefthand Canyon - 24 miles, 3000', 1:42
I had thought about going up to Ward today, but with lower Lefthand Canyon being closed I had to start with Lee Hill, which was plenty for an re-intronductory workload for my legs. I then turned around early and dispatched Lee Hill once more.

1/22, Friday - 1st Flatiron + Green Mtn
Ran from home. The 1st was covered in ice on its lower bits, so I was forced onto a new route a few feet up and to the north. Amazing how much slower you go when you don't have every hold memorized, ascent in 38min (as opposed to the usual 15). Finished up to Green before taking a long meandering route home and finishing with a few 6:30 miles on the creek path.
A photo posted by Cordis Hall (@cordisimo) on
1/23, Saturday - 1st Flatiron, Green Mtn, Regency, Royal Arch, Lost Flatironette, 2nd Flatiron, 3rd Flatiron - 14 miles, 6100', 5:46
The Flatirons were wonderfully dry so I took to the slabs once more. By following some kick-steps I was on my usual route with only a very small detour. I was also astounded at just how well my La Sportiva Mutants stuck to the rock, just about as well as climbing rubber (it also helps that the lugs are getting worn quite a bit). After summitting Green, I did some actual running down Bear Canyon. Hoped to scramble the Front Porch, but the access trail was still buried in snow so I headed over to the Regency/Royal Arch linkup. The 5.6 downclimb on the west face still slows me down, I need some more laps over there. I missed the turnoff for the Hammerhead and instead climbed the Lost Flatironette, which isn't a classic but is a harder difficulty (5.3). I then ran back over to Chautauqua to meet Guy to do the 2nd and 3rd. He had clearly not been on a rock in a very long time as our 3rd Flatiron split alone was around 40 minutes (downclimb not included). Not expecting to be out for 6 hours, 13oz of total water and a couple gels left me parched and speeding down to the dining hall on my bike afterwards.
A photo posted by Cordis Hall (@cordisimo) on
1/24, Sunday - South Boulder Loop - 14 miles, 400', 1:45
Steady pace around the South Boulder bike paths. Felt descent all things considered, held 7min pace for the meat of the run, then peppered in a 20:30 5k at the end for fun, with 5 to 10 minute warm up and warm-downs at "yogging" pace, or something.

I would have prefered to take more time off from last weekend, but with Mississippi 50 in 6 weeks, I really don't have that sort of time to lounge about. The bike rides were good run substitutes, I'll have to focus on sneaking those in here and there. Next week I'll unfortunately be doing both a flat workout and a flat long-ish run. I've also decided on some goals I'd like to shoot for this year: 100 ascents of the 1st Flatiron and 2,500 miles of both running and biking. These volume goals are always tough as they are determined as much by health, weather and random variables as they are sheer effort towards the goal. Getchyer' sufferin' on (smartly)!


I was asked this week about "soloing" in the Flatirons. I had a quick safe response, but when thinking about it, I find the answer much more complicated. I really hate trying to answer questions about that so simply because (as you may read) it is not so simple. First, to get the short preface out of the way, climbing is an inherently dangerous activity regardless of style, but the use of ropes will almost always make it more safe. Despite my own ventures on rock I don't necessarily recommend others to follow suit unless they feel comfortable themselves doing so. I certainly look at other's solos and speed climbs as other's may look at a solo of the 1st Flatiron. Secondly, I use quotes when I say "soloing" because it the realm of rock climbing as a whole, the routes I "solo" are extremely easy routes (thus why I go almost always without rope). If given a rope and a harness I would argue most anyone could at the very least flounder their way up. I also have the luxury of more ambitious friends who will evaluate routes and relay the beta to me so I'm not going in blind.

Comfort, I think is the most important thing to have. Comfort means you have a level head and are able to asses situations with rationale. The Flatirons, while being generally quite easy climbing, offer some incredible positions where there is a lot air beneath you (i.e. exposed). The worst thing you could possibly do is have a panic attack 500ft above the ground. Its that whole concept of standing on the edge of a cliff you suddenly lose faith in your ability to stand, even though on normal ground you wouldn't think twice. Just imagine if you were on a ladder 500ft up, how would you feel? Oddly, when you take away the safety net any doubt is magnified even with movements you otherwise don't think about. With just over 370 logged routes of scrambling, I've garnered a certain degree of comfort and practice on the Flatirons where even when dodging water or ice I feel alright.

That brings me to my second point, which is that it is a very personal choice. Rope or no rope there are always risks. In the Flatirons, bolts and available protection are so few and far between that half the time even with a rope, you're going to fall 30ft or more. I also personally believe that it is irresponsible to be soloing above your limit (you know when you are), especially when you have people whose lives depend on your own. In the movie (and book "Into Thin Air" by Krakauer, which is far better) "Everest" hearing about a father whose family's well-being depends on his job abandons said job to climb above 8,000 meters, this is precisely the irresponsibility I think about. Myself being a single, childless guy (as grim as this may sound) would not cause such an impact of the worst were to happen. And sure, the argument can be made that no one should climb unroped at all.

All of that said, the reason to be unroped is far from some deep desire for danger. The Flatirons are one-of-a-kind and world class formations which are some of the most enjoyable pices of rock to scramble. The feeling of pure freedom while moving efficiently unburdened by rope (which immensely slows and weighs you down, its like snow boots versus running shoes) is fantastic. To anyone considering getting into scrambling the Flatirons I cannot more highly recommend doing nothing but the Freeway on the 2nd Flatiron at least 20 times before even thinking about another rock. Even better, ask somebody to guide you up the route for the first time. An easy mistake is to drift too soon to the nearby 1st which is considerably harder; this is what I did and I regret doing that because at that time I wasn't mentally ready. Its not physically hard per se, but again, confidence and comfort is key. On the other hand, I've taken friends up the 1st solo for their first time because I knew they possessed the necessary abilities to reach the top safely. As Bill Wright says, "It is supposed to be fun." If you're scared, or too challenged it isn't fun.

Seriously, an entire book could probably be written on this subject but it really does boil down to a personal choice and people are going to do whatever they want in the end. If you really, really want to on-site solo a 5.6 or 5.7  for your first climb, just go do it, because you will anyways. Just understand what your getting yourself into. In the end, having the requisite skills opens up a whole world of possibility. Scrambling in the Flatirons is specifically the reason I can't imagine leaving Boulder.
My all time favorite image of the Flatirons. Art by Phil Lewis

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your thoughts. It really does come down to knowing your limits and doing what you feel comfortable with. Id be just like you, the guy who hits the 1st on his first go round lol.