One of my favorite things about Boulder is the common mindset that every day has the potential to be an epic adventure. In most places, getting off work at 5 or 6 means that it’s time to hit a happy hour or head home and watch some Netflix. In Boulder, 5pm is go-time for an evening bike ride, a float down Boulder creek, a scramble up the Flatirons or any number of other activities that Boulderites make part of their daily routines.
Our quick stay in Boulder last week was a whirlwind of biking, running, climbing, and visiting with friends that left us exhausted (in the best way possible) and ready for some quiet time in the woods. Perhaps the best part of our trip was being invited to our friend’s weekly dinner party. Instead of the usual venue at Sam and Jenna’s house, dinner would be held on a sizable ledge in the middle of the First Flatiron, a prominent rock formation that towers more than 1,000 feet over Boulder.
After meeting up with Sam and Jenna at the Chautauqua parking lot, we headed up towards the base of the climb at a brisk pace. It wasn’t long before my legs were burning as we charged up the trail.
When we arrived at the bottom of the climb, a few members of the group were hanging around waiting for everyone to show up before starting the scramble. A couple of the guys had graciously come out earlier to set up some fixed ropes as an extra safety precaution for those of us who have been focusing on other outdoor pursuits and weren’t as comfortable with the current state of our climbing skills. Confident [naive] in my abilities, I opted to skip the rope, throw on my climbing shoes, and started the 5.6 scramble up towards dinner.
The first few moves on the slabby face went well, holds were easy to find and upward progress was steady. About halfway up the first pitch, the holds became smaller and the ground looked farther away. My palms started to sweat and I gripped the rock with more urgency as my confidence waned. I began to regret the short-sighted choice to forgo the small micro-traction pulley that would save my life in a fall.
After a couple of encouraging words from one of the more experienced climbers, I recognized that although I was in a precarious situation, it was one that was well within my abilities to handle. A few moves later and I was on a small ledge on the top of the first pitch. Here, I took the opportunity to throw my harness on, grab a Micro Traxion device, and start the second pitch with the added comfort of a rope to catch an unlikely fall.
With a renewed sense of confidence from the fixed line, I made quick work of the second pitch and soon found myself at the dinner ledge. What a setup! Members of the group had hauled up a table, chairs, taco supplies, dessert, and beer. Combined with the view, who could ask for more?
We enjoyed the scenery, food, and company for a short while before darkness hit and it was time to pack everything up and head home. We still had another pitch of scrambling and a rappel off the top to get us down to a hiking trail.
Luckily for me, the final pitch was easy climbing because it was completely dark by the time we began the ascent. Looking up, I could see a line of headlamps spread out along the route and disappear out of view a the top. I felt confident in my movements and, even though I no longer had the security of the fixed line, began to really enjoy the experience of soloing to the top.
By the time I made it to the summit, the faster climbers had already set up the rappel and were sending people down two at a time (one on each end of the rope). I happily traded my climbing shoes for my trail runners, pulled on my harness, and rigged up my rappel device. I took a second to enjoy the view one last time as I dropped over the ledge and descended towards the headlamps below.
Safely back on the ground again, we pulled the ropes and headed back down towards the parking lot. In true Boulder fashion, this was hands down the most adventurous and scenic dinner party that I’ve attended. Thanks, guys!