Seal Rock is one of the most visible Flatirons from Boulder with its distinctive yellow-and-orange north face. High on the south side of Bear Canyon, this rock offers east-face classics, sporty trad/headpoint climbing, and (as of 2013) two sport routes on its radically overhanging south face. There is also one sport route, the three pitch Sea of Joy on the north face, and a scary trad proposition, Archaeopteryx.
Follow the Mesa Trail south from NCAR, passing the two sharp switchbacks that enclose the Bongo Boulder en route to the top of Radio Tower hill. Fifty yards past the turn-off for the Bear Canyon Trail, which heads west into the canyon, notice a small trail cutting up and right (west) into the trees. This unsigned trail is the Harmon Cave Trail, which takes you past the gated-up Harmon Cave and switchbacks up a steep hill to the south en route to the base of Seal Rock. Stay left for the south face routes or go right to reach Archaeopteryx and Sea of Joy on the north face.
Addendum: There are at least 3 ways to get off this crag from the summit. 1) You can downclimb Shortcut, 5.4. 2) You can do a 50m rappel Sea of Joy's anchor bolts (40 feet East of the summit) on the North face. Note, the rope can get stuck on the pull. 3) Supposedly, you can downclimb 40 feet to the West, then go down a ramp to the Southeast, and then rap 135 feet from an eyebolt.
This route takes a direct line up the overhanging south face of Seal Rock, ending in a deep water groove which continues up the slab to the rock's summit. It starts more or less halfway along the south face of Seal Rock and has a large, flat boulder at its start. The line can also be recognized by a deep break at mid-height and by the bulging black streak which gives way to the upper water groove.Start 15 feet down and left of the right-facing corner and boulder up past a horn into a left-trendi...[more]Browse More Classics in CO
Some clarification on the approach: as you walk south from the Bear Canyon turnoff it is easy to overlook the Harmon Cave trail. If you reach the Fern Canyon turnoff (also to the right as you head south), then you've gone too far.
Some further info on the primary, 165' rappel from this rock: check out Rossiter's topo to find it. Some of the route descriptions here that describe how to get to the rappel can be deceiving; it is actually below the false summit with all the marine life on it, right on the very north edge of the east face. If you go all the way to the true summit you will have to downclimb and return to the rap station.
Regarding the descent: The rap anchors are 30 feet down and climber's right of the true summit. One can either climb the entire face and downclimb to the anchors, rap from the anchors as you get to them, or downclimb the obvious gully system to the ledge where you can locate the walk off at the north edge of the east face. I advise climbing with two ropes, going to the summit, and downclimbing to the rap anchors. We downclimbed a section of rock on our way to the walk off ledge (not advised) which turned our outing into 5.7X and added an additional 300 feet of 'climbing' - quite the adventure.
There is an application for a new climb on the south face of Seal Rock, the first application for the autumn 2012 cycle of the Fixed Hardware Review Committee of the Flatirons Climbing Council (www.flatironsclimbing.com). Details can be found at the link below; the public meeting and vote will be held some time early next year, details to be announced. This cycle closes January 1, 2013, though applications should be submitted well in advance. The public meeting and vote will be held 6:30 p.m. Wednesday January 16 at The Spot gym, Boulder, Colorado.
There is an application for a second proposed new climb on the south face of Seal Rock, the final application for the autumn 2012 cycle of the Fixed Hardware Review Committee of the Flatirons Climbing Council (www.flatironsclimbing.com), which closes January 1, 2013. Details can be found at the link below. The public meeting and vote will be held 6:30 p.m. Wednesday January 16 at The Spot gym, Boulder, Colorado.
A bit more info on option #3 for the descent: we had heard several reports of stuck ropes on the primary rap station, so we spent some time looking for this other option. It is exactly as stated here (downclimb W then descend a ramp to the SE), but it's quite the adventure. The downclimb itself is not trivial and is made way worse due to the exposure. Once you're down, you do indeed descend the ramp to the SE but way farther than you might think. The rap eyebolt is hidden a good 40m down the ramp behind a small tree. It has a sign that indicates the direction and distance to ground (130'). There are a few things that could grab your rope on the pull, but FWIW ours pulled just fine. The rap itself isn't terribly exciting, but it gets the job done.
While at the eyebolt, it seemed there may be a quicker and possibly easier downclimb option directly above the eyebolt. I believe this would be on the south side opposite the rap anchors for #2.
Honestly, I'll probably take my chances with a stuck rope for option #2 next time.