Every fall for the past 12 years, a diverse group of trail runners and rock climbers have gathered at Chautauqua Park in Boulder, Colo., to participate in a ritual called the Tour de Flatirons. Known as Satan’s Minions, this group speeds up the tall sandstone formations that make up Boulder’s famous skyline, blurring the line between running, climbing and scrambling. The group typically meets once a week for several weeks in September and October, but the Tour de Flatirons events are informal, unofficial gatherings (participants don’t call it a race) and definitely not sanctioned events open to the public. Scaling the Flatirons requires trail running or climbing shoes with sticky rubber outsoles and a climbing harness, plus considerable technical prowess and aerobic fitness.
Overall, participants covered 3.7 miles with 2,584 feet of elevation, with 1,850 feet of technical climbing (including a section rated 5.6 on the First Flatiron) and two rappelling sections. The fastest of the “minions,” Matthias Messner, finished the route in 57 minutes, 39 seconds—about 3 minutes ahead of Stefan Griebel (1:00:42) and Ryan Franz (1:00:54). Champion trail runner Anton Krupicka was the fourth finisher (1:03:16) after a bit of a snafu with his rappelling rope.
Check out the amazing photos below to learn more about the rugged nature of the Tour de Flatirons! (And watch this video, too!)