Naked Free Soloing at Night—What Could Go Wrong?
Sometimes those streak-and-solo missions don’t go quite according to plan.
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In the adventure epicenter of Boulder, Colorado, climbing sometimes seems to stand in for most other social pastimes. You don’t go on a first-date dinner—you go cragging after work. You don’t catch up with a friend over beers—you go to the bouldering gym. And, if you’re me, you don’t get brunch with your girlfriends. You go slab climbing. Sometimes without ropes. Sometimes totally naked.
Almost every month since last spring, a group of my lady climbing partners and I have celebrated the full moon by free soloing various features in Colorado’s Flatirons, a handful of 600- to 800-foot slabs that rise to meet Boulder’s western skyline. I’m not sure whose idea it was to start doing this sans clothing, but the #FullMoonFullMoon catchphrase stuck. Plus, it was fun and freeing, and a good excuse to be our goofy, irreverent selves without anyone around to make us feel weird about it. At least, not until last September.
That night, the plan was to climb the Second Flatiron. We got to the base well after dark, and hadn’t seen anyone on the trail. So, we took our time stripping down. Just as the moon started to rise above the trees, we were stretching and chit-chatting (quite nude) at the base of the climb. That’s when one of my friends nearly jumped out of her skin.
“Oh shit,” she hissed as she darted past me, making a beeline for the rock. Everyone else scattered, sprinting up the 5.0 start, butts aglow in the already-bright moonlight. That just left me standing around, trying to figure out what the hell was going on.
That’s when I saw them: two guys on a nighttime trail run, turning the corner toward me with headlamps blazing.
I scooped up my pack and clothes and leapt up the rock, dropping socks and car keys and whatever else I had on me, cursing, stumbling, and running for the shadows on the right side of the face. (If you think free soloing is hard, try doing it with an armful of clothes and your ass out.)
I made it to the darkness of the first corner just as the lights shot by beneath me. I thought I was in the clear—until I heard one amused greeting echo out of the dark:
“Rock on, ladies!”
We spent the rest of the climb laughing until we could barely breathe. The night was cool, and the rock seemed to glow blue in the light of the moon. By the time we got dressed and started the hike down, the incident felt inconsequential. What were two strangers in the dark? We hadn’t seen each other’s faces. Surely it would all be forgotten, and our bare butts would be lost to history.
But Boulder is a small town, and its climbing community is smaller still. The next morning I woke up to a message on my lady crew’s group text. It was a screenshot from a prominent local climber’s adventure blog. As it turns out, one of the trail runners had been Bill Wright, a longtime local and founder of the infamous Satan’s Minions Scrambling Club.
“We found a group (not sure how many) of naked female hikers/scramblers. Yes, naked. Talk about a pick-me-up!” Wright had written in his trip report about a big new climbing and scrambling link-up he’d completed that night.
“I’m not sure if they were out for a full moon (in both senses of the word) scramble of Freeway or if they were just trying to avoid close contact with us. If the former, they were Gilberting the hell out of the start. They were giggling away and having a great time. I think we can all agree, we need more of that in the Flatirons.”
I reached out to Wright, hoping to clarify that he meant we need more people having a great time, but (alas) no. He said he’d like to see “more of both.” And alluded that he’d like to join our group. I declined.
Cringey commentary aside, I’d love to see more ladies feeling as free and fearless as we felt that night. And I’d love to see more people getting goofy, letting loose, and finding ways to take climbing less seriously—naked or not.
But no matter what Wright wrote, it’s safe to say the embarrassment of being called out on the internet left our egos feeling a little sore. Not sore enough to keep us from doing it again, of course. Though next time, I think we’ll pick a less popular route. Besides, you know that wish of mine, about wanting to see more people frolicking with joy in the mountains? Well, it might have already come true.
The last time I walked by the Second Flatiron at night, I found a guy sitting at the base. He greeted me in a worried voice.
“Just so you know,” he said carefully, “There’s a group of naked people on the Flatiron. So you might want to wait a minute before you start up if you don’t want to see anything.” I smiled.
“Interesting,” I said. “What a funny thing to do.”