Challenger flies high on the slopes of Green Mountain. It is nestled among numerous other formations and rests higher than almost all other Flatirons. Although not the biggest Flatiron, it's face sweeps upward and offers some superb Flatiron slab climbing. The east face is the only true route on Challenger and is one of Gerry Roach's "classics
". Ascending the arete is about 5.4 and the rock is smooth and runout. The lack of pro could stress the novice Flatiron leader and the seldom climbed face boasts a healthy layer of lichen. Nonetheless, Challenger is a splendid climb and is a worthwhile endeavor for anybody who loves moving over rock.
View of Challenger from Green Mountain Pinnacle.
Reaching Challenger could discourage all but the most serious Flatiron climbers and can be quite an adventure in its self. The approach is tedious and is home to some of the scruffiest terrain on Green Mountain. Take heart and maybe a pair a scree gaiters to keep out the pine needles. Starting at Chautauqua Park is definitely the way to go.
Click to enlarge.
Follow the popular trails up toward Royal Arch until you reach Sentinel Pass. At the pass, take a deep breath and begin your way uphill looking for a faint climber's trail. The better you know the Flatirons, the easier this will be. As you work your way uphill you will pass north of the Hammerhead then the Last Flatiron. Next you will pass under the north face of Green Mountain Pinnacle and only 50 feet beyond this lies the base of Challenger. These directions are vague but adequate. The formations all will look the same in the trees and if you are new to the area it can be quite bewildering. My advice is to keep uphill and try to follow the ridgeline while staying close to the rocks you base to the south. The base of Challenger is pretty obvious once you get there. Good luck!
P1 (5.4S) - From the low-point, head up the smooth slab and aim for the tree on the face. The gear is sparse and the climbing becomes smoother and harder as you approach the tree. Belay at the tree. 120 feet.
P2 (5.4S) - From the tree head up and stay close to the north arete. There is a horizontal crack at the 80 foot mark (takes a number 3 C4 cam) that is the only pro on the pitch. Continue up the smooth slab while using the arete itself for holds. The crux is the last 15-20 feet below the summit and definitely a no-fall zone. The rock is seldom climbed and the lichen can be slick in spots. There is nothing to set up a belay anchor on the summit with. With a 70M rope, you could downclimb and thread something off the ridge. With a 60M, your best bet is to downclimb west to a notch and do a brace belay. 180 feet.
Descent - Scramble west and walk off. Descend the north side of the formation and retrace your steps back down.
|Further up P1.
|Approaching the belay. Green Mountain Pinnacle below. |
|The runout P2.
|Looking down from the summit. |
|Attempt at labeling formations as seen from the summit.
|Scrambling west off the summit.
Essential GearA rack?
- There is essentially nowhere to place pro on this climb. On P1, there is a small scrubby tree that you could sling before running it out to the belay tree. On P2, the horizontal crack takes a #3 C4 and that's it. The best pro is good friction technique and some courage.
- If using one, a 60M works fine and a 70M would be better.
- Long approach = thirsty climbers!
- This is a long and scruffy approach. Wild rose, raspberries and general brushy nastiness is the name of the game. Scree gaiters are seriously not a bad idea.
While free of usual seasonal closures, it is always a good idea to check before you go. Check HERE
for any unusual closures. Know that on the approach and descent many of the formations to the north (and the area around them) are closed periodically.
Only use clean climbing techniques so leave that hammer at home. This may seem obvious but I have discovered new pitons on routes recently.
There is no camping
allowed in the Flatirons.
Here is a great interactive MAP
of the area.
Here is a LINK
to NOAA's weather site.
The OSMP website provides a ton of good information and can be found HERE