This week’s cold and snow may bring into condition some fun but fleeting climbs above Boulder and Eldorado Canyon: the Flatirons ice routes. These ephemeral runnels form during the shortest days of winter on the east faces of Boulder’s famous sandstone slabs, offering three or six pitches of interesting thin ice and mixed climbing. You won’t get pumped on these low-angle climbs, but you might scare yourself silly. Here, a mini-guide, from north to south:
First Flatiron—Silk Road. Five pitches of ice slabs, short columns, and funky snow and mixed, generally following the summertime East Gully route. One of the very best when it’s in good shape, with tricky, somewhat fragile cruxes up to M5.
Several other lines may form on the First. On December 10 this year, there appeared to be a climbable two- to three-pitch streak of ice high on the upper left side of the east face. You have to walk south of the First to see it well.
Second Flatiron—Call the Copps. A beautiful thin runnel up the gully between the Pullman Car and South Block. Short but excellent.
Third Flatiron—Pink Dreams. The long gully and chimney ending in the Gash, below the summit. A rare visitor, though people have been climbing the east face of the Third in mountain boots since the 1950s or before—certainly long before this route got this name. Great practice for sketchy big-mountain routes!
The Goose—Wild Goose Chase. In exceptional winters, a good three-pitch runnel will form in a groove on the east face of the Goose. Not too bad an approach, either, at least compared to the next two routes. Watch for it.
Shanahan Ice. An obscure but huge slab called the Wings, above an obvious, long talus slope at the head of Shanahan Canyon, often has a good multipitch runnel. This route probably stays in shape longer than any other in the Flatirons. The price? A mega approach.
Mickey Mouse Wall—Mous-Ka-Tears. One to two pitches long, this classic WI4+ is a rare visitor above Tunnel Six. Two tiers of steep ice separated by slabs.
Undoubtedly other ice routes appear in the Flatirons now and then. Know of one? Drop us a line.