Flatirons Flagellation: 243 Pitches in 3 Days
10/29/13 - Before the September floods closed the Flatirons above Boulder, Colorado, to climbers, Bill Wright made the most of a long weekend among these huge sandstone slabs and spires. During a 71-hour period over Labor Day weekend, Wright climbed all 53 of the "Classic" routes featured in Gerry Roach's Flatiron Classicsguidebook.
None of these climbs is particularly difficult—the hardest is rated 5.8. But linking multiple routes in the Flatirons is more about stamina, steady nerves, bushwhacking between climbs, and avoiding poison ivy than it is about technical difficulty, and the cumulative effort of Wright's marathon is impressive. Wright hiked about 40 miles and logged 243 pitches and 25,000 vertical feet of hiking, scrambling, and roped climbing during the three-day span. (Click here for a Google map of all the routes.)
"This is a stupendous feat," said Mark Oveson, who partnered Wright during some of the climbs and helped with logistics. "I don’t know of anyone else who has attempted to climb all of these routes in a single block of time. The routefinding alone is mindboggling."
Wright, the organizer of the Satan's Minions scrambling club in Boulder, is fond of self-created challenges in the crags and mountains near his Colorado home. Last year he and Hans Florine climbed 100 pitches in a day in Eldorado Canyon.
"My original thought was to try to link all of Gerry Roach's Flatiron Classics in a push," Wright said. "But then reality set in. While I am inspired by the feats of the great endurance athletes, I'm not one of them."
Instead, Wright started after work on Friday and knocked off 12 routes before pitch dark. His plan was to work his way from north to south through the Flatirons, soloing most of the climbs; he had lined up a belayer or partner when needed. Each night he'd scarf down as much food as he could stomach and shower off the accumulated poison ivy oil.
Saturday began at 5 a.m., hiking toward the mega-classic Third Flatiron. By 5 p.m. he and friends had worked their way south to Skunk Canyon, where rain forced an early end to the day. Still, he had managed to log 17 routes and 90 guidebook pitches over the 12-hour day.
Sunday dawned rainy, but the weather cleared enough for Wright and partner to return to their gear stash in Skunk Canyon and begin racking up more climbs. By day's end another 16 routes and 64 pitches were in the bag. By comparison, Monday was an easy day, with only eight routes and 37 pitches, including the famous Maiden and Matron towers. On the latter, Wright did two routes, finishing No. 53 with the North Face(5.5).
"Was this hard?" Wright pondered in his trip report. "Ultrarunners and real adventurers will scoff that I returned home to my house each night. I don't blame them, [but] it was hard for me.
"I'd say that this will probably never be done again, but I know such thoughts are foolish," Wright added. "No matter how inconsequential this project was, there are locals, Minions, that are interested and could do a much better job. In fact, I was supported by Minions, all of whom are probably better suited to this adventure than I am. It was a team effort getting this project done, and the funny part was the slowest member of the team did all the climbing."
Dates of event: August 30–September 2, 2013