Happy Medium

Route Name: Happy Medium

Rock Formation: The Shanahan Crag

Number of bolts to be placed:  17 bolts + 2 bolt anchor

Route Difficulty: 5.10+/5.11-


The wall is taller and steeper than it appears in this wide angle photo.


 Route Description:

This route starts 20 feet downhill (to the right) from Wait For It… and it begins on a clean, colorful panel of smooth sandstone. An attractive line, it boasts three distinct sections in its 35 meters: the smooth, colorful panel, an easier but still near-vertical stretch of darker, pocketed rock, and the final section of overhanging flakes to the top of the wall.

The anchor will be at 35 meters, so a 70-meter rope will be mandatory. It goes at approximately 10+/11-.


A description of existing routes on the same face of the rock formation, including the number of routes, route names, route grade, type, and approximate distance between routes (a photocopy or diagram of the existing route(s) is also required):

The main south face of South Shanahan Crag has 11 existing routes:

1) Leonine (5.10d), 2 pitches, traditional + bolts. The only route left of my proposed line, and the closest to it, Leonine begins about 60 feet uphill and around a corner. Leonine veers rightward throughout its length, and near the top it ends up about 30 feet to the left. *The route line in the Flatirons guidebook (left-most route, photo attached: “Shanahan routes”) is incorrectly drawn too far right.

2) DK Superstar (5.12c, 1 pitch, sport). It’s about 20 feet downhill from Leonine.

3) Shoulder Season (5.12d, 1 pitch, sport), which is 15 feet down from Route 2.

4) Birthstone (5.12a, 1 pitch, sport), about 15 feet downhill from Shoulder Season.

5) Wait For It… (5.11b, 1 pitch, sport), about 10 feet downhill from Birthstone.

6) Great Expectations (5.8+), 2 pitches, traditional. This line starts 8 feet downhill from my proposed route.

7) Prune Face (Identity Theft) (5.7), 2 pitches, traditional. This is immediately right of Great Expectations.

8) Better Offer (5.9+), 1 pitch, traditional. This is a few feet downhill from the Prune Face.

9) Beau! (5.7), 1 pitch, traditional. Located a short way downhill from Better Offer.

10) South Face (5.4), 1 pitch, traditional. This moderate classic is 20 feet downhill from Beau!.

11) Vague Jug Line (5.7), 1 pitch, traditional. About 50 feet downhill from South Face.

***I’ve attached a photo with my proposed line and the existing route to its right, Great Expectations, established by Dougald MacDonald (with Julie Garrison) in 2003. I emailed with Dougald in order to draw his route accurately, and as you’ll see, my proposal comes close to his in two spots, including a brief intersection with a variation of his line. That said, Dougald fully supports my proposed sport route. Here are Dougald’s words regarding Happy Medium versus Great Expectations: “Personally, I’d much rather see a good 10+/11- up there than a poorly protected 5.9 that no one will ever do.”

A description of the approach (include approximate distance from the designated trail system, existing “social” or undesignated trails leading to the climb and condition of the trail, and state whether there is a durable surface, such as rock.  

The approach starts from Cragmoor. Hike the North Shanahan Trail to the Mesa Trail, then turn left (south) and walk for about 10 minutes until you reach a drainage just beyond an open meadow (with some prominent boulders). From here, a climber’s path — a faint path on rocks and dirt, then grass — leads up the drainage, then up the hillside on the right to the Shanahan Crags. These are located approximately a quarter-mile from the Mesa Trail. The South Summit is about 5 minutes uphill from the Eastern Crag — the first of the Shanahan Crags one encounters (about 55 minutes total to the south face of South Shanahan Crag). The base of the entire south face is talus and rocks interspersed with dirt.

The cut off from the Mesa Trail

If different from the approach, a description of the descent, (include approximate distance from the designated trail system, existing “social” or undesignated trails, a description of the trail condition and whether there is a durable surface, such as rock.  Include photographs of the descent.):

To descend from the proposed route, simply lower with a 70-meter rope. Reverse the approach to return to the parking.


Staging area:

A description of the area at the base of the climb (include existing levels of soil compaction, existence of a durable surface such as rock, and existing soil erosion.  Include photographs of the area at the base of the climb.):

The base of the route is mostly dirt and rock, interspersed with some low vegetation. Packs and gear can be placed on rocks adjacent to the route or underneath nearby trees, thus minimizing impact to the staging area (see attached).

Has all reconnaissance work that can be reasonably done, short of placing any hardware, been done?

Yes. I’ve scoped a perfect spot for the anchor and have climbed the route on toprope.

Has the route been top roped?  Is there loose rock?  Is it extremely overhanging?

Yes, I’ve toproped it. There are a few loose flakes up high but overall the rock quality is stellar. The route begins vertical, turns to slightly less than vertical, then it kicks back to slightly overhanging for the top half. It is not “extremely” overhanging.

Any additional notes:

At 5.10+/5.11- this route will provide a much-needed and high quality warm- up for the popular 5.12s on this sunny wall.

3 replies
  1. Adam Block
    Adam Block says:

    This panel looks great at a reasonable grade! Great to hear the nearby FA is on board. I approve, can’t wait to check it out!


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