Saturday, September 27, 2014

Fatiron/Maiden Figure Eight

My buddy Mark was taken a friend up the Maiden and offered me a free ride up this iconic Boulder-area spire. I couldn't resist that. All the fun and none of the work of carrying the gear, because he also suggested I climb the Fatiron first and then just meet them at the Crow's Nest. don't have to twist my arm.

They left the trailhead at 6 a.m. and I left at 7 a.m. I trotted, laboriously because I feel like I either have no fitness or weigh a metric ton, or both, up the Homestead Trail to the Mesa Trail to the Bridge Trail en route to the Fatiron. The brush at the start of the Fatiron trail looked so thick that I headed up the Maiden approach trail until the off rock road and then went cross-country, mostly on talus, to meet up with the Fatiron's climber's trail. I was happy to leave the main trails and switch to hiking. It was already warm and I was sweating up a storm.
The upper section of the Fatiron from the summit of the lower section. You can see my shadow at the bottom of the photo.
I got on the rock after 43 minutes and scrambled up this fine rock. The climbing here is really fun and it provides tremendous views of the north side of the Maiden. I yelled over to what I thought was Mark getting to the Crow's Nest and he waved back. This was Mark's friend Dan who hiked in with Mark and Eric and then just soloed to the Crow's Next and rapped off. He had an appointment he needed to get to.
Looking over at the Maiden from the Fatiron. Mark is standing above the bump on the right. 
I did the overhanging downclimb that connects the lower section of the Fatiron to the upper section. I felt strong and solid and the holds were good. Easy Peasy. I scampered to the top and then decided to try the overhanging downclimb down the southwestern prow. My last time up this, when I linked all the Classics over Labor Day weekend last year, I balked on this downclimb. I didn't feel solid and did the longer downclimb off to the north. This time I went right down the prow and it felt pretty casual. It is quite steep, but the holds are good. The last section is overhanging, but I had a really good hold to lower myself down.
Eric finishing the first crux pitch

I picked my way through the boulders down to the start of the Maiden's super cool and super circuitous North Face route. I climbed up the initial 40-foot face and met Eric on top. He was belaying Mark as he climbed to the Crow's Nest. I put on my harness here and then followed Eric, still unroped, to the Crow's Nest. Mark decided it was quicker for me just to lead on, so I tied in, grabbed the rack and led the usual crux pitch across the north side to a huge ledge.

Eric followed next, belayed from both sides, and he cruised it. Mark soon joined us and I proposed the Walton Traverse (5.7) instead of the usual route, as it doesn't involve any more downclimbing and is more direct, though more difficult. Mark was okay with that and I led it, trying to place as much gear as possible, though there are a few sections where you have to just run it out. This was primarily to protect my seconds, though I didn't mind the gear either.
Mark finishing up the Walton Traverse

Eric cruised across once again, only pausing at two sections to decipher the best moves. Mark did the same but paused a bit longer at the last dicey section, since he'd have to do it after pulling the last piece and face a nasty fall if he peeled off. Of course, he didn't fall and was just being 100% solid.

Mark led the last pitch and I soloed up it just above him to take some photos. Soon all three of us were on top and I rappelled first. Mark wanted me to give Eric a fireman's belay, just in case, on the massively exposed and intimidating first rappel. This turned out to be a very good idea. Eric didn't seem to like the prospect of leaning out over 200 feet of high and lowering into empty space. It appeared that he balked at least a couple of times at the lip and that isn't including the FaceTime call he got from his wife after already clipping in to rappel.
Mark on the final pitch of the Maiden
Finally, he went over the edge and promptly flipped upside down! Yikes. I had my hands on the end of the rappel line and had tied a knot in it, as well, but the knot wouldn't have saved him from a fatal impact with the rock rib, if he fell. He didn't panic though. I was pretty gripped watching this and ready to tug on the rope for all I was worth. It took him probably 30 seconds or more to right himself. He failed around for awhile, unable to turn upside right. He finally had to rappel a couple of feet upside down before he had enough separation from the rock to get sorted out. It was gripping to watch from below, but both Mark and Eric stayed completely calm.
Eric on the summit
Once right-side-up, Eric was back in control and slid down the rope in a nice controlled manner to the Crow's Nest. I clipped him into the anchor and said my goodbyes. I didn't want to stick around for the work of packing up the ropes and the gear and hiking out. What a lazy bastard I am...
One airy rappel!
I slid down the already placed second rappel rope (thanks, Dan!) and then trotted back to my car and got home around 10:45 a.m. Derek was still sleeping. Teenagers...
Eric at the Crow's Nest at the bottom of the first rappel
Fun way to start the day! Thanks, Mark and Eric!

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