Friday, October 11, 2019

Route Profile: East Face Standard, Third Flatiron

The Third Flatiron, perched about Boulder, CO, is a fantastic outing at a very moderate level. Many would argue this is one of the finest introductory multi-pitch climbs on the continent, with 800-1,000 feet of climbing at low to mid 5th class. As always, the route information below is no substitute for good judgement/experience/instruction and should not be relied on in any capacity. Keep in mind that there are many different variations to this route (most any pitch, variations are quite climbable 20+ feet to either side of the standard line, though leader protection may be more variable/difficult to find).

The third flatiron, can you see the large CU on the east face's upper reaches?
The approach can be done a few different ways, but allow for ~45 minutes at an average, casual pace. Pitch one begins at the top of the approach trail, with a gentle traverse. Anchoring the belayer at the tree immediately where the pitch starts is highly recommended given the anticipated load (in the event that the leader fell) would naturally pull the belayer off their stance, sideways. Pitch one ends in a variety of different places, but it is common to belay after crossing the "gully".

A climber near one of the belay options on the first pitch. In the center left part of the photo climbers are about to start the first pitch.
Pitches 2-4 can be pitched out in a variety of ways, but regardless, the general line is directly straight up. Aiming for the large eye bolts can be helpful but they can be quite difficult to find and aren't necessary to climb the route.

The beige line of rock going across the photo is the bottom of the "C" and is a common belay spot.
Years ago, Boulder's most famous vandalism occurred on this route with large 50 foot letters getting painted onto the rock's face, spelling out CU (Colorado University- where it's main campus is located in Boulder). The CU is a useful landmark for route-finding by looking for the lightly colored rock.

A gentle upward traverse across the C makes up pitch 4/5 depending on how parties pitched out the climbing below. The gully at the top right side of the CU is quite moderate and has an eye bolt marking the route, with a very short downclimb before crossing to the upper face. Crossing this gully in several places other than what was just described would involve hard down climbing or a rappel.

From the eye bolt at the top right of the C, two pitches are typically done, with airy exposure and fun friction climbing. These generally are directly trending straight up above the belay, with the final pitch trending right at the very end.

A climber on the final few feet of friction climbing before reaching the summit.
The rappels are done in a variety of ways, but a common way to do them: one long rappel (with a 60 meter rope) skipping a set of chains right next to a large block and heading down to the final anchors (there are two different anchors, a single eye bolt and a more modern two-bolt w/chains rap station). Pulling the rope from further right may assist the drag and chances of a stuck rope. For the last rappel, VERY IMPORTANT, there are signs attached to the anchors describing the rappel lengths depending on which side you rap off the ledge. One side requires two ropes, the other side is a 70 foot rappel and is easily done with one 60 meter rope. Take your time, leave knots in the ends of your rope and be deliberate about which side of the anchor ledge you are rappelling off of.

A climber almost done with the last rappel.
The East Face of the Third Flatiron is a must-do for every climber (who has the requisite experience). The exposure, the scenery, and the "type one fun" nature of this route will leave most any climber grinning from ear to ear as they finish the last rappel. Hiking back to the car, many may even try to climb a moderate boulder problem or two as they make the ~40 minute jaunt back, topping off this quintessential  Boulder outing.


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