Seems idiotic to free solo with three kids and probably is. But I did a 5.0 today, pushed for a rope but partner wasn’t into it, and turns out that was the right call.
I was going to just hike and my buddy was fine with that. Then he suited up and was about to go. I walked to the base of the second flatiron and looked up. Far less steep right under it than even 20 feet away, strange.
I put my climbing shoes on to test the first pitch a bit. Worked through some minor jitters 20 feet off the deck. Then carried on, Bryan well up in front of me.
And on, and on, often looking over to the side where I could seemingly easily bail out into the trees and gully as the trail runs (unseen) along the side of the flat iron, though not as easy to bail as I later discovered. The angle was nicely steep, not too easy not too hard. I went up about 2/3rds of the way. Moving smoothly, head clear, focused on my task. Really wonderful time. Calling back and forth to Bryan occasionally sharing thoughts.
Then I came to a point where I wasn’t particularly scared but sort of felt like I should get off and not risk any more with my family and fresh 3rd baby and all, plus a big 8 foot jump and not totally clear route after. Turns out Bryan did have a bit of route finding trouble but nothing serious and easily found the way, climbing to the top and stepping right off onto the trail.
Roughly 5 pitches or so up, maybe 500 feet or 2/3rds I decided to bail to the right into a gully with a few trees and I hoped a regular trail beyond. This turned out to be an exceedingly poor decision. I was far more scared and precarious climbing sideways and got into and out of several jams climbing up, down sideways, down, back up, around. Got fairly sketched out and wanted to just turn it off at one point…. but of course with no rope you can’t do that. So I had to pull myself together and think and focus and problem solve, trying this way and that, thinking several moves ahead, guessing what might be over the next bulge, what holds looked good for hands and for feet, gingerly trying them and making the next move and the next.
I made it to a couple gnarled old trees who had built themselves quite solid foundations into the cliff over many years and spent some time sitting and contemplating, enjoying the views and a snack.
After this brief interlude of not relaxing exactly but more relaxing than the time on the rock, I was back at it, stepping out into danger again, working down, up, sideways, then up and up, choosing the more exposed way eventually going higher to hopefully safety. And next thing you know, off I stepped onto the trail, and it was over. I was a bit disappointed it was done, I enjoyed it. Adventures are true adventures in my opinion when you are truly scared and your life is at risk, ideally at some point you wish you were home and not there, there is some physical discomfort if not a lot, at some point you are overcome by the beauty of the nature around you, and afterwards have an urge to go back and do it again. This outing checked every one of those boxes. A very solid adventure. And I was home in time for dinner, at 6pm, after meeting in the parking lot at 3pm. Good living.