Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Royal Flush

I had heard about Royal Flush a couple months ago browsing the mountain project for climbing near Frisco. It's a unique climb for Colorado since it is a 1500ft, 8 pitch, 5.9 sport route - the longest sport route in Colorado. It looked like a ton of fun for a sport climber like myself who is itching to get on something long.

Our first attempt was on Saturday, but since the weather forecast didn't look ideal we decided to just wait for Sunday. So we headed to a nearby single pitch crag called the White Wall and then spent the day attempting to watch the USA Pro Challenge, visiting Dillon Dam brewery, and eating.

Wake up call was at 5:15 on Sunday. We took down our tent and headed over to the parking lot. After a quick breakfast of leftover pizza we headed to the base of the route. The weather was beautiful albeit quite cold, so we bundled up in our Melanzana hoodies and started our climb.

The first pitch was pretty easy, even in approach shoes, but I soon realized why people said that you should be comfortable running it out on easy rock. There was lots of space between bolts which could mean a long lead fall, but it kept us on our toes. At first the runouts were nerve racking for me, but it wasn't long before I just accepted them and expected them.

The first three pitches passed by without much to mention. The climbing was typically no harder than 5.7 and the rock was good quality. There was a 100 meter walk to the left and we soon found pitch 4. We took a short break here among all the trees before starting up again. Supposedly there is a 5.10 variation straight up and a 5.7 out to the right, so Shelby went in search for the 5.7 variation. She ended up having to climb runout 5.9 until she was able to get back on the main route. That was definitely interesting.

At the top of pitch 4 we had a pretty long hike up through a talus field to the base of the headwall, which would contain steeper and more difficult pitches with more spectacular views and exposure.

 The beautiful view of Dillon Lake from the talus field.

We were excited to get to climb the headwall in the background

Shelby took the lead again on the opening pitch of the headwall. She climbed up the apron, a beautiful low angle slab up to the prominent dihedral where she crossed to the left and started out the steep climbing for the day. The delicate slab climbing was a ton of fun and it was exciting to change modes in the middle of the climb to the jug haul up the steep face. This was one of the best pitches of the climb and I was glad we did it instead of the harder variation.

Next up was a 5.9 pitch that started out with a fun layback and then traversed a bit over to a tight dihedral. Getting into this dihedral was the crux for me, but probably because I didn't climb it well. I was attempting to mantel onto a tiny ledge while being cramped in a tight featureless dihedral. I had most of my weight on my right hand for way too long and I was afraid that I would fall. Somehow I made it up on my feet and continued, but my right wrist was sore for the rest of the climb. To finish off the pitch there was a pretty fun and pretty tricky roof to a nice wide ledge where I could take my shoes off and sit down for a while. While I belayed Shelby from this ledge I was just giddy. Being in the middle of the steep headwall with so much exposure was just amazing.

Still inside the hoodie on pitch 6. Cold day!

We had one more pitch of real climbing and it was a great finale to the climb. Several blocky roof-like moves brought us up to a tree with an ammo box full of several volumes of summit registers. We could see two groups of climbers below us on the headwall alone and it was really cool to see how far we had climbed. We signed the register and climbed the remaining 3rd class gully to the lower summit of Mount Royal. This was the first time we could bask in the sun all day and it felt great. We took some summit photos and started the long hike down.

The hike down took around an hour and it was somewhat miserable. The step trail was hard on our knees, but nothing could damper our spirits. Back at the parking lot we sat on Shelby's tailgate and enjoyed a couple IPAs together. A good celebration after a great day of climbing.