Morning Fix


It was becoming a habit. Hoping to tick some routes before facing my abusive boss, I set out for a little before-work scramble in God's own playground, the Flatirons. The rising sun slanted through the pines as I approached the East Bench of the Third Flatiron. Typical for September, the air was calm and crisp, and a glance upward confirmed that one of the world's finest crags was all mine. I stepped onto bedrock.

Unburdened by rope or gear, I navigated the cool, glowing rock of the East Face (5.4). One hundred feet later, I was lost in a sandstone garden of scoops, bumps, and edges. As the pitches passed I became less aware of each move, and more aware of the concept of motion. The incut, patterned holds on the sixth pitch were so good that using them felt like cheating; I grabbed them all. One thousand sublime feet later I topped out, then downclimbed a pitch, scrambled through the Fat Man's Frenzy tunnel, eased down Slipslide Ledge, and paused to consider my next objective: the Dog's Head Cutoff (5.4).

The Cutoff leaves Slipslide Ledge at an overhang and traverses 40 feet across a steep, bucketed wall past the Dog's Head pinnacle to the main East Face. The route is short but committing. I tested a hold or two, grabbed a jug, stepped high, and hoisted myself onto the stone. My world became a rock wall, a magic line of holds, and a series of unhurried motions, which in time brought me to the relative safety of the East Face and the adrenal rush of not-having-fallen-off.


After downclimbing the Third, I descended to the South Sneak (5.2), a hidden gem and my favorite climb on the Second Flatiron. One pitch of featured slab, one thin, cruxy ramp, one blocky step, and one fun rounded ridge later, I stood at the top of the route, grinning like an idiot.

I wanted to finish my morning trifecta with the First Flatiron, but I had no time for its standard, longer routes. Work would not wait forever. Luckily, the First offers a short, little-known treasure called Atalanta (5.3). A water-groove gully brought me to a small, graceful ramp. I grunted over two featured bulges, topped out to a crystalline view of Longs Peak, downclimbed the Southwest Face (5.0), and found the trail. The detour had cost me only 20 minutes.

Having covered some 20 pitches of rock before 8:00 a.m., I should have been sated. But was there time for one more climb? The Flatirons summoned me; the idiot grin resurfaced. From the glass and steel canyons of faraway Denver came the call of the abusive boss.