A Morning Scramble

It is 4:30 a.m. I lie in bed, awake, my eyes slowly adjusting to the silvery light that fills the room from the moon filtering through the blinds. I have another 15 minutes before I need to get up. I savor the stillness for 14 of those minutes, and then turn off the alarm before it rings. Dog proceeds to thrust her front paws on my chest and leans into a full back stretch, wagging her tail.

She greets me with the same enthusiasm every morning, met with a reciprocal level of joy on my behalf, but without the stretching.

Unfortunately, she will not be joining me on today’s outing as I am heading down to Boulder, Colorado to scramble in the flatirons. She is also still recovering from TPLO (tibial-plateau-leveling osteotomy) surgery, which has made for a trying couple of months for a hyperactive cattle dog.

We slip into the kitchen without waking my wife. I make breakfast. Dog hunts for any bit of food that might fall from the counter. I do not like rushing in the morning, but despite rising early, I am running late to meet my friends at the trailhead.

I eat a slice of toast on the drive down, accompanied by a strong cup of coffee, and I crank up the volume on the new Tribe Called Quest album. It is going to be a good morning.

I meet Bill Wright, who heads up the Satan’s Minions Scrambling Club, along with Tony Bubb, Jon, and Danny. The club is made up of an eclectic group of people who love running and scrambling in the flatirons. Jon jokes that Ali, another member of the club, said we would not be able to complete today’s intended link up and be back in time for work. Bill laughs and remarks, “That’s why I started speed climbing.”

We set off at an easy clip towards Dinosaur Mountain. Our objective is to link three rock formations, the Front and Back Porch and the Primal Rib. I have not scrambled either of the first two, but have heard great things about the quality of the routes so I am excited.

We mostly talk about rocks on the way up–different routes, formations, and link-ups. Bill and Tony have scrambled more of the flatirons that most (as in almost anybody), so they are an absolute wealth of information. That coupled with their seemingly inexhaustible stoke for scrambling and climbing makes for a passionate conversation about the numerous aesthetic variations found in the flatirons.

The Front Porch is lit beautifully by the warm morning light. The rock is clean, featured, and allows for smooth, continuous movement. We make quick progress up and over the formation and move on to the Back Porch. We don climbing harnesses for the rappel on the west side of the pinnacle. Danny scrambles up ahead and points out some good positions for photos. It is mid-November and I am sweating in a short-sleeve t-shirt. Strange weather for this time of year, but hard to beat these kinds of conditions for a morning in the hills.

The Back Porch offers more thoughtful scrambling and I really enjoy the movement on the rock. The descent consists of two airy rappels, the second of which is off a somewhat questionable anchor, making it all the more exciting. We scamper over to the Primal Rib, hop on to the spectacular arc of rock, and quickly ascend to the summit.

I typically like to scramble alone as it’s easier for me to get into a groove and I can just stick to my own schedule. I admit to the group that when I sent the email last night confirming that I would join, I nearly instantly regretted it, knowing I would have to get up at 4:30 a.m. Now, as we run back down to the parking lot, I realize just how worth it that little bit of extra commitment is–discovering new routes with great company at a beautiful time of day. I will take more of that.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Do you prefer group or solo outings? What values do you find in each of them?
  • Do your outdoor adventures combine ‘disciplines’ in order to take you to the places you wish to go?

Joe Grant - A Morning Scramble 1

Joe Grant - A Morning Scramble 2

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Joe Grant

frequently adventures in wild places, both close to home (a frequently changing location) and very far afield. He inspires others by sharing his words and images that beautifully capture the intersection of the wilds, movement, and the individual at Alpine Works.