5th Flatiron

Aqua Buddha!


The fifth and last numbered flatiron is above and just north of Royal Arch, a “long” nearly two-mile hike and a short bushwhack from the Chautauqua parking lot. The easiest route up follows the “cat scratches,” several large parallel cracks on its face. The easiest way down without a rope is the “secret downclimb,” which requires squeezing through a small hole, then reverse-mantling down from one sloped, lichen-covered slab to another.

After trampling my way through the woods for awhile, I found the north end of the flatiron, and started up a more challenging route on that side. The hardest parts were the initial friction-y pitch and a short steeper section just before reaching the ridge. The ridge itself was a fun ascending hand-traverse, with great views down the flatiron to Royal Arch and north to the other flatirons. The summit had no fewer than five pieces of pro: an old pin, two spinning bolted hangers, a giant eyebolt, and a small Buddha statue. Not having a rope, it was the “secret downclimb” for me. One squeeze and a short “downward dyno” later, I was on the ground, where a faint climber’s trail led back to the trail.

Not wanting to be completely pathetic, I finished off the day by climbing the third through first flatirons, then doing a faceplant on a trail run.

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