Achean Classic

October 22, 2011

We’re in that ‘inbetween’ season where the weather can be sunny and cool, when it isn’t laying down a bizzard.  Ah, Fall.

As we do so often in this season, Brian and I settled on looking for something in the Flatirons to find some weekend fun. Brian had the idea to head into Skunk Canyon for a change. It has been a while since I did a new flatiron; my quest to climb all the flatirons has turned into a lifelong project.  I was excited to pick off another classic:  Achean Pronouncement (5.7+).  Yes, it is a Roach ‘classic climb’…a designation that is at least as good as the ‘Two Thumbs Up” used to be back in the Ebert & Roper days.


Our 1st view of the Achean Pronouncement provided a clear view of the route: up the crack to the right of the dihedral, follow the skyline, then pass underneath the summit block to mount on far side.

We started from the NCAR parking lot and made quick progress to the creek bed beneath Satan’s Slab and the Achean Pronouncement (“AP”).  Brian gazed longingly at Satan’s Slab, but we had done it many years ago. I insisted we add to the list and so we followed the climber’s trail up and left to reach the bottom of AP.

Roach indicated that the start was ’60 feet up and south of the low point’.  But that didn’t look right, so we hunted around a bit until settling on the bad news that the blank looking, dirty slabby path to the two trees was probably the path.  Holy cow….it looked like you’d have to jump for a tree, if you fell, in a desperate effort to live. Ugh.

But the more I looked at it, the more I could see pro and features.  The only thing I could not see what the last couple moves to escape the danger zone, but I decided I’d volunteer.

Pitch 1

Starting from the tree on the ground approx. 60 feet from the low point of the flatiron, I picked my way up and right toward the 2 trees that marked the bottom of the 2nd pitch. I moved high enough to place the gear that was possible but made sure to stay left of the Juniper bush that was flowing down the face.  After a moment of exposed difficulty, the short pitch was over.

As I sat in the shade, slowly getting cold, I realized that I’d dressed for a summer climb instead of a cooler, breezier fall climb.  I shouted down to Brian to bring up my sweater that I managed to bring in a spasm of thoughtfulness.  I couldn’t do anything about my short pants, but at least I’d have a jacket, even if it was only a light fleece.

Pitch 2

Heading up the obvious crack toward the next tree-based belay station, Brian moved a bit more slowly than I’ve come to expect of him. I noticed more than usual as I was very cold despite now wearing my sweater, and I wanted to move up into the sunshine as soon as possible.

When it was finally time for me to climb, I discovered the source of the slow pace:  lichen. The route was very dirty for a ‘classic’ Roach climb, and it was slick as snot.  And the pro was surprisingly sparse; I was able to forgive Brian for his careful pace.

I worked my way up, slipping 3 separate times before reaching the belay.

Brian belaying after leading the 4th pitch; photo taken while straddling the ridge

Pitch 3

The third pitch stayed close to the dihedral, which was more of a scramble than a rock climb, so the lack of pro wasn’t an issue.  As I neared the top of the ridge, I could tell that a mere fleece sweater would not be enough…the wind was really blowing.

The promised fixed pro was gone, but I was able to set a strong anchor before bringing up Brian.

Pitch 4

Brian took off over a blank slab, angling up and left, and placing questionable gear every now and again, for moral support, I suppose.

I followed quickly, only stopping once after regaining the ridge to snap a photo of brian below the summit block.

Once I was able to check the topo, I realized that Brian had taken most of the 6th pitch as well.  I figured the final and crux pitch would be mine, for a change.

Pitch 5

The climbing was much more pleasant than earlier. This was why Roach had picked this climb as a ‘Classic’.  It was a very nice finish.

I worked my way across the slab below the summit block, looking for a path upward.  I had to move fully past the summit block to find a good path upward, which I took to wind around to the south face where the pro was scheduled to disappear.

I hunted around for the right path to the top, first examining the SE corner and then settling on the south face 20 feet to the left.  I placed the last piece I could get in and started up only to find that the rope was dragging on something I had missed along the way.  After fiddling with it I surrendered and setup an anchor to belay Brian.  The 6th pitch would be his after all.

An impressive view of the four ridges to the north of the Achean Pronouncement: Ridges from right to left: 1 (Stairway to Heaven), 2 (Devil's Slab), 3 (Angel's Way) and 4 (Mohling Arete).

Pitch 6

Brian took about 1 minute to pass the crux above my head and then another 5 minutes to scramble to the top.

It was a nice climb to find and do for the first time after climbing in the Flatirons for 15 years.


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