Flatiron #1. East Face Direct Route, 5.6

Boulder Flatiron #1
East Face Direct Route, 5.6


by Lloyd Garrick

The "Flatirons" are one of Boulder, Colorado's premier landmarks, and in fact are world famous climbing meccas. From a distance (from town, like at Whole Foods in Boulder where I eat lunch every day) they look like they are stacked up against the East face of Green Mountain. They are not. If you hike up to the Green Mountain summit and then travel South along the ridge you will come to a nice overlook area from which you can see the "backside" of the Flatirons. They are stacked against (part of) a separate mountain which lies just in front (East) of Green Mountain, and with a sizeable valley between them.

There are a number of access routes to these formations from Bear Canyon to the South, Saddle Rock trail to the North, and the Mesa trail which runs along the East side. One of the most direct ways is from Chautauqua Park. Take Baseline Road in Boulder West past Rt. 93 (Broadway) and hang a left at 8th Street. From the parking lot in front of the Ranger cabin hit the trail and follow the signs for "flatiron climbing access".


With Steve Johnson, Guide, Colorado Mountain School



The Mighty Flatirons will loom ominously in the distance from the very start. There is only one obvious trail heading in that direction. Take it.



The access trail is just visible here.
Flatirons #1, #2, and #3 from right to left. In the distance you can make out #4 and #5 also.
That wooded (treed) stretch between them is the path back after rapping off the top.

Zoom shot of Flatiron #1 with #2 to the left.

It is a short (30-40 min) hike, but steep. By the time you get to the base of the First Flatiron you will have risen a full 900 feet from the trailhead, giving you a nice "pre-climb" burn.



This "flat" iron is seen to be quite rough and rocky in this close-up.
Yes, that tree in the center is growing out of solid rock and you will see it on the way up.
An unimpressive hike - just something ya gotta do to get there.

Most of the trail looks like this.

All of the Flatirons have many climbing routes, most are multi-pitch and range from 5.0 to 5.10 or so; most are 5.5-5.7. We will be taking the longest one, the "East Face Direct" route, starting at the lowest part of the base, climbing essentially strait up the middle of the rock, bearing left (South) a bit as we ascend, finally reaching the ridge about 700 vertical feet later. This is 6 pitches; although the longest route on this rock, it is by no means the hardest; the entire climb is rated 5.6.
At the ridge, 2 or 3 pitches South along the top will bring us to the highest point on the rock, another 100 feet or so vertical gain. From there a fun rappel off the back side (West) about 100 ft down to the trail, which will then take us back.



Many routes to choose from.

At the end of the access trail you will come to a small wooden bridge right at the base. From a distance the Flatirons appear to be very steep, even almost strait-up vertical from some vantage points. The true angle is about 55 degrees; it sometimes looks deceptive in pictures.



This is where the fun starts. Get your gear on!
Looks deceptively easy at the start ...
You never see more than a fraction of the rock at any time. It always looks "smaller" than it is. What "looks" like the top here is really nowhere near it.

Steve leads on the 1st pitch.



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