Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Regency/Royal Arch/Fifth Flatiron

Bill Wright, Alex Cross, and Peter Bakwin atop the Regency

This is probably my favorite link-up in the Flatirons. All the scrambling is stellar, but the real appeal is how all the rocks align perfectly. Even the trails leading to and from the rocks seem to align nicely. By far the most important part of an enjoyable scramble isn't the formations, though. Nor is it the perfect weather that we enjoyed this morning. It's the great companions that you share it with.

I organized this outing as an "interview scramble" for our newest prospect, Alex Cross. Yes, I've made the James Patterson jokes ad nauseum and nearly none of my friends get it. Apparently I'm the only one that reads "vacation/beach novels". I scramble with a sophisticated crowd, apparently. That, or they are culturally illiterate. Not illiterate, as some of these guys are honest to goodness college graduates, and because a couple of these books were made into pretty decent movies, like Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider, both starring Morgan Freeman. Okay, that far too much on that topic. Alex is his own man, obviously, and, I believe, in law enforcement.

When I arrived at the trailhead at 6 a.m. I was pleasantly surprised to see Buzz Burrell and Peter Bakwin there. And Chris Weidner showed up for his first Minion scramble. The five of us trotted up the newly re-routed Lower Skunk Canyon trail and then up talus, across the Mesa Trail and onto the climber's approach trail that leads directly to a huge patch of poison ivy, which we carefully negotiated (how carefully we'll know in a couple of days) to the base of the Regency.

Halfway up this rock Buzz announces that he forgot to bring his scrambling shoes and he wasn't comfortable soloing all the rock we'd be doing in just his running shoes. He decided to climb down and leave us. This was a wise decision by a legendary scrambler. I think Buzz is growing up. He's so mature these days!
Downclimbing the west side of the Royal Arch

The four of us continued to the summit, downclimbed the west side, squeezed through the chimney slot, and up to the lower slabs of the Royal Arch. This is an easy and fun scramble to the summit of this iconic Boulder-area arch. The aesthetic way to proceed from here to to continue west, but that involves soloing down the very steep, though short, west side of the arch. I'd done this many times, but none of my companions had done it before. Alex and Chris are expert rock climbers, but Peter announced, "I'm not a rock climber." Which I thought was a bit absurd considering where we were, what we had done, and what we were going to do, but he continued, "And I don't even play one on TV." I do not concur. Peter then onsight, solo, downclimbed the west side. He most definitely plays a rock climber in the real world.

We hiked up the climber's trail to the base of the East Face South Side route on the Fifth Flatiron and scrambled up this featured, ledge-y, but quite interesting scramble. The position on this climb is particularly enjoyable for me. After a pretty cool chimney/groove start, you traverse over to the very edge of the east face. Then, nearly at the top, you get to hand traverse the north edge of the rock to the pointed summit.
Chris Weidner atop the Fifth Flatiron
I was excited to show Alex and Chris the secret downclimb off the Fifth, that I had learned more than a decade ago from Bill Briggs. Instead, Peter showed me a new downclimb off the southern side of the Fifth Flatiron that is even easier and puts you down directly on the descent trail. Very cool.

We trotted back to the trailhead via the Royal Arch trail and then the Woods Quarry trail to the Kohler Mesa trail to the Skunk Canyon trail - all in a nice line. Peter left us at the Woods Quarry trail junction and decided to go tack on the First Flatiron as well. The round trip of four miles, 2000+ vertical feet, about 10 pitches of guidebook climbing, took us just under two hours. Fun times! Welcome to the Minions, Mr. Cross.

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