Chaos. That sums up tonight pretty well. Rangers, cops, DNFs, off route, and even a serious fall on rock for the first time ever.
My buddy Jeff V. was running on the Amphitheater trail around 4:30 p.m. and noticed rangers near the Amphitheater itself and even a police cruiser down at the trailhead. Did someone talk? I got there a bit later than I had hoped and recruited Ryan to run over there with me to check things out. We didn't see any official presence and I decided to go on with the stage, but we started in a few waves to make us less noticeable. Most of this route was well off trail and by the time we were coming down the First Flatiron we were spaced out nicely, of course.
Here was the course description:
We'll start down at the Baseline Trail at Chautauqua and follow that trail over to the Amphitheater Trail (slight descent to get to this trail, don't head up the Bluebell Trail, which you get to just before the descent to the Amphitheater Trail). Head up this trail for about two very hard minutes a nice climbers trail (not blocked by branches like one slightly lower) will go off to the left, just before the first really steep section of trail flattens out). Follow this to a talus field and go up there to get to a saddle just beyond a very prominent and cool tower. We are NOT climbing this tower.
Once at the saddle on the uphill side of the prominent tower, you must start scrambling and not hike up next to the ridge. This ridge seems very solid to me and I have not encountered any lose rock, but others have noticed a few loose blocks. This will be a no-pass section because it is very narrow. No one get pushy here, there are plenty of other places to pass. Stay on the obvious scrambling ridge until it ends.
Then head up towards the bottom of the Spy. You can scramble on rock slabs on the left or hike up terrain on the right. Either one is fine here, just make a beeline for the bottom of the Spy, which you'll clearly see above you. There is a steep wall before the last bit of the Spy. You can go over this any way you want, but it is easier to get over it on the left.
Scramble the Spy to the top and off to top back to the ground. Now hike up steep terrain directly adjacent to the First Flatiron. It is possible to get on the First Flatiron almost immediately and you can do this, but it is not recommended or required. The rock there is covered in lots of lichen and the climbing is a bit too dicey for a stage. So, hike up steep terrain to the normal North Ridge start. This should be pretty obvious and will be about 2-3 minutes of hard hiking above the Spy. Once on the First, follow the North Ridge to the summit. From there downclimb or rappel off the top.
Once off the First, head to nearly the very base of the Sunset Flatironette. There is an easy way to gain the rock just about ten feet up from the very bottom. Follow the obvious ridge to the very summit. This has outstanding scrambling and a couple of interesting sections where previewing might gain you a few seconds. (emphasis added post stage)
Downclimb off to the northeast, down the ridge. Once on the ground follow the First Flatiron Trail to the usual finish for the First Flatiron. You CANNOT cut any switchbacks. This trail is a total mess and we're not going to contribute to that. This stage will be towards the end of the daylight, but there could be many other hikers on this descent. Be cool and try to give the other hikers warning of your coming and/or a good berth around them. Some won't like our speed no matter how nice we are, but let's try to leave as good of an impression as we can.
The first group went off with the big guns, including Matthias, Will, and Ryan. Stefan was under the weather and sitting this one out. I hope he recovers fast and can join us. Also in the field was world-famous Anton Krupicka. He owns more than a few Flatiron speed records and would be a threat to win. Alas, despite Anton's amazing speed over short distances, his speciality is long courses, as he's probably still most famous for his 100-mile running prowess. Matthias is just possessed this year. It appears he not only wants to win this second Tour or even to win every stage, but to annihilate the field on each stage. His times are mind-boggling.
It was great to see a recovered Joe Grant back for stage two and doing very well up near the front. Speedsters Jed and Darren, who weren't at the first stage, made their presence known here, clocking very fast times. Newcomer Erik, in his first stage ever, finished in the top half, way in front of me.
The wave start did prevent me from mixing things up with two of my favorite scramblers to be around: Buzz and Jon Sargent, but I think those two mixed it up nicely.
|Matthias with a gap near the top of the First Flatiron|
This was our first ever injury while on the rocks and he was lucky to limp away from it. I think we are all humble enough to know that this could happen to any of us. I just want to reiterate that these events, while so fun and so comfortable for us almost all the time, are quite dangerous and should never be taken lightly. You all know this and I'm not trying to be patronizing, as most of you are safer, better, stronger, better looking than me. Just want to use this opportunity to remind us all to always take care in tricky spots and always emphasize safety over speed. One of the best examples in our group, I believe, is David Glennon. This guy can flat-out fly! He won the 2015 Rattlesnake Ramble. He was 4th at Imogene this year. Footspeed-wise, he's the fastest guy in the Minions. Yet, he knows not to scramble like Matthias. He puts his fitness ego aside and takes the climbing at a speed that is always safe for him. I sometimes come across him in these stages and that's one of things I love about these events. They are so quirky that an average Joe like myself can come across an elite athlete like David in the midst of an event. That's only because these are NOT running events. These are scramble events. And it's a different, much more serious game. Remember the first rule of the Tour: No Dying. Dying gets you disqualified. From the Tour and from living the rest of your great life.
I started off dead last due to having to run back to my car. When I got back to the start one scrambling was waiting to start with me: Danny. He and I were very close in the last stage and he wanted to go head-to-head again. So cool! He seems to be a touch fitter than me and was in front of me all the way to the top of the First. I was able to move in front only because I rappelled and he downclimbed. Did he tell me at the finish that I had only beat him because I rappelled (which is undoubtedly true)? No, he did not.
|This shows Angela rapping off the First Flatiron and you can see many scramblers in the background on the Sunset Flatironette...at sunset.|
I caught Willie at the top of the First and we stayed together until near the top of the Sunset Flatironette where I got a slight lead (because David was super cool in letting me pass on the downclimb). I booked down the trail as fast as my geriatric legs and limited agility would allow. David passed me in about a minute. Willie caught me in another minute. I asked if he wanted to go by. He said no. After five minutes of him being on my heels I told him to go by. He refused. It was super fun running out with him, but I'm not sure I understand that. I'd have gone by! I ended up being 2 minutes faster than him because I started two minutes later, but who knows how much time he could have put on me if he went by. I suspect a tough battle with him in Stage 3, along with my real rival this Tour: Danny.
Once again we had three chick scramblers: Sonia, Sara, and Angela. What tough, fast ladies these are. I passed all three...barely. Inching by them, going about 0.1 mph faster. This group gives you a skewed view of reality. My bet is that they are faster than 95% of all climbers. I mean, this isn't the way most of the world climbs...
A bunch of people did not do the full course, including, maybe the winner. Here's the mistake a bunch of people made:
Obviously I'm disappointed that my directions were not clear enough. I'm not sure what else I could have done. I announced a preview of the course and you could have gone with me. I said in the description to start "ten feet from the very bottom of the rock". I posted a Strava track showing the correct route, which, when compared against an erroneous route, clearly shows the difference. I didn't mention the route "Going to the Sun" as this is the one of only two routes that I know of on the Sunset Flatironette. The other is a short, steep route on the west face. I do apologize to anyone that feels this wasn't sufficient. I want everyone to have a great time and I had no intention of leading anyone astray. That said, I do like to put somewhat of a premium on really knowing the Flatirons and getting to learn them and previewing the courses. I'll try to post a more detailed description for the next two stages (I don't think anyone needs directions for Stage 5), with photos. I've done that in the past and was just lazy this year. Sorry.
What to do? I've decided instead of marking these scramblers with a DNF, to add a time penalty. Danny went back up there and timed the difference of getting on the Sunset early vs. the bottom. For him it came up to almost exactly 3 minutes, so that's what I'm adding to anyone that didn't go to the bottom. Anyone disagreeing with this assessment can go measure the time difference for themselves and I'll adjust their time accordingly.
Looking forward to Stage 3. I'm hoping we have a stage with no injuries...