sits at a lowly height of barely over 8,000 feet. It hosts many trail systems that a vast quantity of people on a daily basis. It hardly qualifies as a place to go for solitude. Or does it? This trip report is mainly to tell about the time I've spent getting to know Green Mountain. Also a chance to show a lot of pictures that I've taken of the area. I hope you enjoy it and maybe get a different view of a lowly mountain that sits right in our own backyard.
I got the idea to start spending afternoons scrambling in the Flatirons several years ago as I transitioned between my summer climbing schedule and school. Not being a high-caliber technical climber, I relished in the Flatiron's moderate slabs where I could practice scrambling and multi-pitch climbing long after the high country was snowed in. I could drive down after school and explore the slabs to my heart's content.
My first Flatiron hike was a stroll up to Royal Arch with my sister. I was overwhelmed at the sheer quantity of slabs that merely bordered the main trail. Royal Arch was dusty, hot, crowded and beautiful. Having a trail system like this so close to a large city is amazing. I was sold and knew I had to get to know the area better.
Cool arch Taking a break
I soon bought Gerry Roach's Flatiron Classics
and flipped through it. My eye immediately stopped on his description of Cavernous Sinus. It was casually thrown in with his list of main trails in the area and was described as a cave hidden on the slopes of Green Mountain. There was no trail, no people, and that it "rivaled Mallory Cave in size". I had to find it!
I figured the best place to start would be to go and check out Mallory Cave. Although Cavernous Sinus was on Green Mountain, Mallory would give me an idea of what I was looking for. The bat roosting closure had recently been listed so a some friends and I went to check it out. Just like Royal Arch, a solid trail led right to the scrambling ramp up to the cave. It is easy to imagine why Mallory Cave was lost for years before being found. After happily soaking up the sun and the views we clipped back to the auto.
Death on the Hammerhead
Another hot day. I was lacing up my climbing shoes at the base of the east ridge on the Hammerhead
. Being used to class 4 in the mountains I had been comfortable with my plan of soloing the route until I got to the base of it. It was low angled but longer and seemingly smooth up to the summit block.
I did not anticipate there being a learning curve in reading Flatiron rock. As I headed up I found myself on rock harder than 4th class and off route. I was on the right side of the face and needed to be left. There was a small wall between me and the easier rock and I wasn't sure how to get to it. I was by a tree with some rappel slings where I'm sure someone else off route had bailed to the north. I stopped and snapped a photo of Royal Arch and promptly dropped my camera. I watched helplessly as my camera bounced down the face, off the north side, and through the brush in the north gully. Bummed, I unshouldered by pack, got out my scrambling rope and harnessed up. I rappelled of the side and drudged down to find my camera. Eventually I found it smashed in a bush about 300 feet down the gully. Fortunately I salvaged the photos and the hike by going up to Royal Arch and scrambling to the top. As I soaked up the view uptop I imagined myself tumbling down the steep rock that I had allowed myself to stray onto. I would be more prepared next time.
Royal arch taken before my camera's fall.
Late day on the Third
I smiled and said "Thanks" as I stepped up onto the rock. It had been a beautiful day, and we were the only ones on the rock as the evening approached. As we quickly moved up the easy rock, I felt like we were chasing the sun. The shadow of the Third
seemed to reach out of the shadow of Green Mountain as the darkness moved over Boulder.
The fresh air and solitude we had on this extremely popular rock was intoxicating. Our spirits and moved up as we did. As we topped out we enjoyed the sun that we had been trying to keep up with all along and we relished in the warmth. Casually surveying the surroundings I eyed the formations that could be hiding Cavernous Sinus. I knew it was there, but where?
As the sun met the horizon we left our solitary perch to return to the car and other commitments. It had been a great day and I felt that I was finally learning the formations and the rock.
Instead of scouring the hills blindly for Cavernous Sinus, I decided the best way to go would be to climb. The better I got to know the slopes of Green Mountain, the sooner I could find it. Plus, the tops of the formations proved to be an excellent vantage point to scope out the slopes.
I soon found myself tying my shoes again at the base of the Hammerhead. Determined to stay on route and hold onto my camera I moved up the rock. Now familiar with Flatiron slabs, I enjoyed the feeling of the class 4 rock. Few people know that the east ridge of the Hammerhead is home to the longest arch above Boulder and that the route climbs right over it.
|Return to the Hammerhead |
|Onto the arch. Hope it doesn't break!
|Cave by the third |
Longest arch above Boulder
As I climbed more and more routes the slopes became familiar. The tricky backcountry spots seemed home as I moved through the trail-less brush. The formations and routes blurred...
|Royal vantage point |
|Tomato Rock |
|Hammerhead from below
|Upper Regency |
|Royal Arch Hikers from the Regency
|Challenge of Challenger |
Off the Thing
Success at last!
Last week it has been two years since I started exploring the Flatirons. I had climbed an obscure formation on Green Mountain and finally decided where I thought the elusive cave was. Yesterday I headed up from Chautauqua and up the slopes. I made it right to where I thought Cavernous Sinus would be and was surprised to see some fairly recent footprints heading up in the snow. I nosed around anything that could be an entrance. I found a tight passage that wormed up into the rock. It was too tight for me with my pack so I stashed it and worked my way into the hole.
|Can it be? |
After about 50 feet of horrible and dirty wiggling up, I saw some light. Pushing through the upper hole I came out simply higher from where I went in. No dice. I thought I had it all wrong.
As a last resort I tried one more place.
Trying not to get my hopes up I peered into the new entrance. I took off my pack and pushed it through the hole above me and crawled in. I had found it! It is a cool little cave and has a very different feeling than Mallory. The inner room is similar in size but shows no sign of human contact.
|At last |
|Main room |
Sense of Adventure
It is rare to truly have such an enormous sense of adventure when hiking in Colorado. Even obscure peaks are seeing more and more climbers and hikers every year and all have established routes. Little did I know when I started looking for Cavernous Sinus that this would be such a wilderness experience. The whole process of finding the cave has been a breath of fresh air from solid trails leading to busy summits. It's proximity to a large city almost made it feel more wild, especially since in my two years of hiking I have not seen one other person on any of the routes I've been on off the main trails. Green Mountain has proven to be one of my favorite places in the state and I look forward to getting to know it even better.
Here are some of the great routes and formations on Green Mountain.
The Morning After
Have fun and remember to bring your fashion sense!
The clown nose was in his pack...Seriously.