The Flatirons in Boulder are five jutting slabs of sandstone. Aptly named by some of the first pioneer women who settled the area, they resemble clothing irons used to press linens. An iconic geological feature, the Flatirons stand sentinel over Boulder Valley's Chautauqua Park.
Ancient Rocks — Photo courtesy of Hope Gately
You'll find local artists' renditions of them in various art boutiques, coffee shops and offices throughout town. But painting them, marveling at their beauty and hanging their likeness as decor can't compare to the heart-pumping adrenaline of actually climbing these massive monoliths.
Several of the Flatirons can be hiked or run without ropes, as long as you are in excellent physical condition and comfortable with exposed rock and down-climbing, as well as heights. For novice hikers or climbers, the journey can be a daunting feet, but for those who have been climbing for many years, it's a veritable walk in the park.
If you are a novice hiker or climber who wants to explore the Flatirons unroped, then you should go with someone who has climbed the Flatirons before and is a seasoned climber. An unroped fall on the Flatirons would likely be very injurious, perhaps even fatal.
For those who insist on free-soloing, keep in mind that the Flatirons are multi-pitch, highly exposed and should only be run without a rope if you are a seasoned climber and in very, very good physical shape.
If you opt for roped climbing, then trad gear, ropes, harnesses, climbing shoes, belay devices and webbing for settling up rappel anchors will be needed. Be sure that all members of your climbing party are familiar with how to use this equipment.
Picking your Flatiron
As always before a big trip like this, do your research. Find out the technical information and route descriptions for the Flatiron of choice. The list below should give you a general idea about each of the five individual Flatirons:
The First: One of the more difficult of the five, this Flatiron offers routes that range from 5.3 all the way up to 5.11a. This multi-pitch climb tops out at over 1000 feet and will take you the better part of the day to complete. It is not recommended for novice climbers, unless they are following more experienced climbers.
The Second: This Flatiron offers bouldering and climbing routes ranging from V6-7 for bouldering and difficult 5.11a climbing.
The Third: One of the most popular Flatirons to climb, this bad boy offers climbing from 5.4 to 5.12d, with some multi-pitch climbing topping out at 1,300 feet.
The Fourth: With one sport route, easy routes and a couple of challenging climbs, this Flatiron offers variety.
The Fifth: This Flatiron offers 5.3-5.6 trad climbing and is often run by the daredevils of Boulder Valley. It's perfect for novice climbers who wanna cut their teeth on some rock.