Fabulous First Flatiron

by Janelle Anderson

FI 2

I got so excited about the Wild Iris flowers that I forgot to get the First Flatiron in the photo

FI 1

There she is!

Before having children, we loved ticking off multi-pitch climbs which took us to beautiful places we wouldn’t have otherwise considered visiting…places like the Bugaboos, Sawtooths, Wind Rivers and more. We enjoyed the adventure, hard work and rewarding views these climbs provided. When kids entered the picture, our climbing evolved into short and sweet sport climbs. Multi-pitch climbing was a rare event when we had dedicated babysitters. Nevertheless, we retained hope for the future. We dreamed that some day our whole family would be able to rope up and enjoy multi-pitch climbs together. This dream was always in the far off future until this past weekend!

With Danger (10 years old) and Adventure (7 years old), the four off us set off for our first family multi-pitch climb in Boulder, CO. The Flatirons provide fun, easy and highly textured slab routes which we felt would suit our family perfectly. We chose the Direct East Face of the First Flatiron, a 10-ish pitch 5.6, but we planned to bail off to the North Arete when possible (about 7 pitches up). We discussed our plan with the boys the day before, to get them mentally prepared for a new adventure. They seemed psyched but slightly confused on how we were all going to get up the rock face. Having three tied into the end of a rope was a new concept for them.


Top of pitch 1 and there was no crying!

The Flatirons face straight East so they get direct sunlight until later in the afternoon. The sun can be brutal for sure but we lucked out with passing light clouds keeping the sun at bay.


Not a bad view although, looking out for the first time was definitely an eye opener for the boys.


Selfie 1…the sun hat was key and I was a little jealous that I forgot mine!

We weren’t totally sure about how we should tie in the whole crew and the fact that we brought a shorter-than-planned rope didn’t help. We decided that Adventure was the most likely to fall or need top rope security so he was tied in first using a locking carabiner and a figure 8 bite. Danger was tied in the same way about 6 feet lower and then I tied into the end of the rope. On this climb, it worked beautifully. There was a little learning needed, and communication was key so that no one was getting pulled or tugged unexpectedly. Since we were on a really easy climb, I was able to easily assist the boys or give a little spot or encouragement along the way. I don’t think this set up would have worked as well if the climb was more difficult. If the first climber fell, it would be little to no impact on the two following. If the middle climber fell, it would have been exciting for them and the first climber who would have been tugged off. If I fell, well, everyone was in for a real surprise! Luckily, we choose a perfect route so we didn’t have to test the falling scenario. The boys also used an extra long sling and locking biner to use as a back-up tie-in at the belays. While climbing we wrapped the slings around their waist and that really worked well.


The Anderson Train


Axel leading the way up.


All smiles at the top of Pitch 2! The boys handled the exposure really well.


Belaying Dad up the next pitch. The boys were pretty impressed by how this whole process worked.


Top of Pitch 3 and a chance to learn how to sling a big rock to help create an anchor.


Selfie 2 plus a family photo at the top of Pitch 4. The sun was definitely bright at times and next time everyone will have sunglasses or hats. We did have sunscreen so that was a step in the right direction.


Selfie 3. Can you tell someone’s dream is coming true? Look at Mr. All Smiles!



Seeing these smiles is pretty heart warming too!


Top of Pitch 3. At each belay, I showed them the anchor then busted out water and snacks! Snacks were a major part in the success of this climb.


The climbing was so much fun! Keeping things easy, fun and not rushed were also critical components in having a great experience.


IMG_1140 The top of Pitch 4. You can see the long slings made things really easy and quick to get the boys tied into the anchors.

The top of Pitch 4. You can see the long slings made things really easy and quick to get the boys tied into the anchors. We were using the red and white Trango Low Bulk 11 Sling (120cm).


In no time, everyone knew the routine and felt more and more comfortable being on the rock face. It helped that the climbing continued to get more featured (easier) as we climbed higher.


The pros getting tied in the top of Pitch 5. This was the best belay on the route and gave us a chance to teach the boys about “foot breaks”…taking those tight climbing shoes off and letting their feet breathe!


Chillin’ out at the top of Pitch 6



We see the top! And, everyone is still smiling! Whoot!


One last little push to the top. Spirits were high!



Selfie 4 – Proud Dad! Thanks for taking the time to take photos to document this family milestone!


The top of our first family mulit-pitch climb. What an awesome day!


Happy, happy, happy, happy! Danger and Adventure had just successfully completed their very first multi-pitch climb! The rappel off the top was very exciting but a true highlight.


After climbing, we hiked out and made sure to take another look at our first climb!

Postscript from Mike: Ever since I was a young man, I’ve wanted a family, and I envisioned introducing my kids to climbing — I imagined big climbing adventures while sharing a rope, and pictured these climbs far off in the future.  It’s somewhat surreal to realize that I’ve now reached that part of my life, and I’m thrilled to enter this new phase in my climbing career — passing it on to my kids. I will still push myself hard for as long as my mind and body will allow, but I’m looking forward to reconnecting with my climbing “roots” by re-experiencing those longer, moderate classic climbs that drew me to climbing in the first place. Now that my boys are “of age”, I feel like an entire new world is opening up before us, one in which we are no longer tied to single-pitch sport crags. Thanks Lucas and Axel for being such great kids, and having such a great attitude!  I’ll never forget this climb, and I look forward to many, many more. 

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2 thoughts on “Fabulous First Flatiron

  1. Mike: You’re one skinny dude. Nice job with the photos. Janelle: Great post! I’ve been thinking of doing something similar (on a smaller scale) with my little ones. You’ve given me some great ideas on how to manage the ropes with them.


  2. Pingback: Spring, Sprain, Summer, Send? | The Rock Climber's Training Manual

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