Peak(s):  Der Zerkle - 6755
Date Posted:  02/04/2021
Modified:  05/23/2021
Date Climbed:   02/02/2021
Author:  daway8
 Der Zerkle: Southern Squeeze & Sunnyside Two   

Writing this report to highlight an interesting way to get to the top of Der Zerkle that I haven’t seen described in any of the Flatirons resources I’ve come across (I've for the moment dubbed it the Southern Squeeze). This is also somewhat of a sequel to my previous Flatirons report: Flatirons Intro UPDATED

I've also now updated this report to include a brief description and some photos of Sunnyside Two - an easy class 4 route on Der Zerkle that takes you to the base of the chimney described below.

If you’re new to the Flatirons and not already an experienced climber I’d recommend checking out some of the "easy" class 4 routes in that report first. I'm honestly not sure exactly what rating to give this route (someone more experienced can chime in) but it felt like a notable step up from the class 4 routes in the last report so I'm guessing low 5th class.

When open (bat closures April 1 - Sept 1, for much of Der Zerkle but Sunnyside 2 stays open, as of this posting) this route offers:

  • Easy access off Mallory Cave Trail from the NCAR trailhead
  • A chimney-like feature just hard enough to make a beginner struggle but easy enough to still be fun
  • Great view at the base of the ramp
  • A slightly uncomfortable step around to get on the ramp
  • A significantly uncomfortable ramp (for a slightly experienced climber) that's steep, narrow and along the exposed south edge of Der Zerkle
  • A very well placed rock overhang perfectly positioned to give handholds above and below it for much of the way up
  • A final stretch of ~15ft with no supports but slightly lower angle and adequate holds
  • A small but adequate and dramatic summit with a view of Mallory Cave to the west and Boulder to the east
  • Fixed hardware which I'd assume crazy people must use to rappel?!? (I'm not up for that yet...)

Please don't try this as your first rock scramble ever - it is possible to fall to your death here. I've done the Royal Arch, Freeway, Buckets, etc plus plenty of visits to the local climbing gym over the last year or two and still got nervous enough the first time up this that I had to pause a couple times and take some deep breaths before continuing on. If you're not used to this kind of climb it has the potential to really pysch you out (though climbing guru's will probably only see it as a mild warm-up). This can be a really fun route to level up your experience on but just be careful.

Update for closure info: since originally writing this report I've found a far superior resource for zeroing in on exactly what is and isn't closed - the website linked here and shown below has fantastic aerial images if you turn on the 2018 Imagery basemap and it clearly shows what is closed at the current time. Initially this only displayed properly on mobile but now it seems to work with this link on my pc as well:

Be sure to turn on the 2018 Imagery basemap - you can even zoom in a little closer than this for exceptional detail.

Der Zerkle from below on the west side by the chimney.
Be sure to verify possible closures before going.

Another sign with more details - I think this means Sunnyside Two and the summit stay open... I think...


The first map below I added to the updated version of my earlier report and include here again since most resources don't seem to give this kind of overview. I'm also including a trails/contours version for additional information.

Flatirons overview of some of the key features.
Overview in contour form with trails as shown on GAIA (a great app to use for the Flatirons as well as 14ers).

Finally a zoomed in view showing the trails from NCAR to Der Zerkle - just a few junctions to take note of.

Route from NCAR to Der Zerkle.

The Approach

From the NCAR trailhead (you can literally type "NCAR Trail Head" into Google Maps and get there) just follow the NCAR Trail to the Mallory Cave Trail, connecting the dots as in the map above. If you're going for Sunnyside Two that'll be along the south side of Der Zerkle and also with lead you right to the base of this route - more on that towards the end of the report...

Follow the signs for the NCAR trail and then the Mallory Cave Trail.
The sign in the last photo points up this way - trail is easy to follow once you spot the turn to go up.

If you go up Sunnyside Two to get to the Southern Squeeze then you can reverse the directions below as an alternate way down.

After that go until the Mallory Cave Trail curves around behind Der Zerkle but before it curves off again in the other direction, just as you're passing through a couple large rocks, go forward towards Der Zerkle, swinging around slightly to the left as the Mallory Cave trail cuts hard left. As of this writing there are a few logs laying over some rocks pointing the way. If those go away just look for the next rock gap shown.

Pardon the cheesy phone annotations - maybe someday I'll clean those up to look better (no, probably not actually...).

The Mallory Cave Trail goes right through these two rocks then cuts left. Leave the trail and swing to the rocks.
Looking back the other way - the last photo is towards the back left of this one. Come between these rocks.

Turn right (south) and go up over these boulders.
View looking back - on the way out go down here to the left.

After you start to get close to the rock formation then swing right up over some small boulders into a small clearing in front of the chimney-like gap between the Der Zerkle summit and Overview Rock (unofficial name I'm giving it) to the right (south). I say chimney-like because I'm not sure if it fits the definition of a full and proper chimney but it's certainly chimney-esque once you're in it so I'll just call it a chimney.

View from the clearing looking back at the rocks you scramble over to get to it.

This clearing is the easiest place to switch to climbing shoes. The chimney can be done without climbing shoes but I strongly advise you to use climbing shoes for the ramp since a fall has the potential to be fatal! Might be ok with shoes that have decent traction but if you bust some bones or worse due to a fall, don't say I didn't warn you!

Again this is fun with a little experience but dangerous for the inexperienced (ok, enough butt covering disclaimers...)

Vertical pano shot from in the clearing with Der Zerkle summit towering above to the left and Overview Rock to the right. Go up this crack to start.

The Chimney

I've updated this section with some better photos.

The photos above and below makes it look very narrow but that's partly an illusion of the angle. I'm 6'2" and it felt like I was stretching my legs apart somewhat far to walk up the thankfully very large holds. Not like a huge stretch - maybe 2 or 3 feet apart - but enough to feel a bit awkward. Better climbers could probably find a more graceful way to do it but hey, whatever works...

Looking into the chimney.
Looking down into the chimney from the rock adjacent to Der Zerkle - gap is wider than it looks here but has huge holds here and there.

Better lighting for the base of the chimney.
Midway up.

The left side (as you go up into it) has huge divots which make for excellent holds.
Chimney becomes ore of an open gap partway up.

Here's an action shot of the mildly awkward split-ladder move to walk up the chimney - super solid foot placements make it very doable.
There's a flat spot midway up.

Almost through to the view.
Went a little up a side shoot to get a different angle down into the chimney - this makes it easier to see how it starts wide then narrows.

Another slightly different angle looking up at Der Zerkle from just before the chimney.

Overview Rock and the Step Around

The chimney-esque feature becomes more of an open crack as you pop up a little ways and start to get a view out east. From here I recommend stepping around to the right to the adjacent Overview Rock, as I'm calling it, for the obvious reason that it gives you a place from which to get a very nice overview of your mission, should you choose to accept it...

It does require a couple exposed steps to get over there but there are very large solid holds that make it easy (if you can't handle stepping over there then just enjoy the view where you're at and don't even think about trying the ramp).

There is just enough of an indented lip along the front edge of Overview Rock to stop and switch over to climbing shoes if you don't already have them on (one last reminder - I really, really recommend them for the ramp).

Exposed step around to the left to get to the start of the ramp.
Exposed steps off to the right to get to Overview Rock.

From Overview Rock take a quick peek over at Der Zerkle to see what you'll face. Note the large sheet of rock up against the sky on the right creating an overhang just in from the edge in the photo below. This is your security blanket of sorts for this route (a more experienced climber might not feel as much need for it but boy was I glad to have a huge solid hunk of rock that I could grip from underneath as well as on top so that I didn't feel that my life was fully in the hands of... well, my feet...).

View from Overview Rock. From the bottom right to just above center note the large sheet of rock creating an overhang just in from the edge.

Scroll back up if needed for a look at the step around. It looks at first like you're going to step out into nothing but the ramp is just around the corner.

Going around the step around looking back into the crack.

The next photos were taken coming down off the ramp but might help also in confirming you're coming up on the right spot. This step around was slightly uncomfortable since it's hard to see around until you step onto the exposed lip at the base of the ramp but the footing here is super solid.

Left foot just around the step around.
Right foot at base of ramp - if it looks a little airy that's because it is. It only gets worse from here up so make sure your nerves are set.

The Ramp

This is your last chance for an easy bailout. If you're not feeling it, maybe go do Mallory Cave which has a fun little scramble at the very end. Being still pretty new to the climbing world this little ramp was enough to get my heart pumping pretty good, though part of that was from the unknown since I had no route guidance and had to question if this was really doable.

Others who have done the harder routes in the Flatirons have mentioned hardly remembering this but if you've only been playing on the easy routes get ready for some fun...

Looking up the ramp - you can see the overhang from bottom right under the yellow.

The ramp is steep, narrow and has so-so footholds - if that's all that was there I probably would have looked for a different route. The secret to this route is that awesome overhang. I was able to get a firm, strong grip under the overhang with my left hand the entire way up that portion while often finding at least some little nub on the top to grip with my right hand.

Thus I relied heavily on my climbing shoes for traction but used my left hand under the overhang to kind of pull myself down onto the rock for stability while keeping some sort of grip with my right hand as an emergency backup. Probably sloppy looking form but it got the job done. Simply do in reverse for the descent (haha, the brain says "simply" the nerves say "you call that simple!?!") .

The Summit and Descent

Once the overhang runs out you reach a break in the rock with a flattish spot where you can pause and enjoy the view.

From here it's maybe another 15 feet up slanted rock to the summit. The holds are neither great nor terrible - climbing shoes again provide a major confidence booster on this last little segment. You do have the indent at the top of the ramp as somewhat of a fall buffer here though the angle is less than (or certainly feels less than) the ramp.

Last little hump to the top - it levels out just out of view.

The summit has room for only perhaps a couple people (depending on how cozy you want to get near major exposure). Standing upright on the top edge is a good way to see how much of a fear of heights you actually have (do at your own risk...).

Standing on der Zerkle summit. Climbing hardware visible on the left.
Sitting on summit. Left toe marks entry spot to the chimney below. Right foot points to where you come up into the clearing from the right.

Going back down the first time was even more intimidating than going up, as is usually the case.

The angle of the photo below makes it look like the ramp is huge and trivial until you look closer at the shadows and realize the larger flat section to the right is actually the top of Overview Rock, which is on the opposite side of the chimney and much lower in elevation. So there's only maybe a couple feet to work with on the ramp before you'd fall down into the chimney (scroll back up to the first image in the report if you want an idea of why that would be bad - very bad!).

Looking back down from the top to the upper portion of the overhang.
Top of overhang coming out from left, ramp down is skinny section in the middle; Huge gap/drop over chimney.

Below, for a better perspective is another shot from Overview Rock which shows the Der Zerkle summit at left and the overhang rock along the ramp against the sky at the right. This gives you some feel for the uncomfortably steep and exposed nature of the ramp - pretty typical for the Flatirons but pretty intimidating the first time you go up a feature like this.

Looking at Der Zerkle and the ramp up it as seen from Overview Rock.

The Views

There's a neat view of Mallory Cave from the summit of Der Zerkle - took me a moment of scanning to actually spot it. That's a fun hike too and it can be entertaining to watch/listen to the tourists trying to handle the last little scramble up towards the cave, lol. If you bring your climbing shoes you can also wow the tourists with some of the alternate paths up to the cave... (all of which are much easier than Der Zerkle but fun and easy).

Looking from Der Zerkle to Mallory Cave (just above the pine tree near center left). Route comes up crack going to trees in bot. right.
View from Mallory Cave looking down to Der Zerkle (dead center) and out over Boulder.

Sunnyside Two

The first time I went over to Der Zerkle it was to find a class 4 route described in Simon Testa's guidebook (The Best Flatiron Scrambles). But I didn't read the directions close enough or misunderstood because I ended up trying to come up from the NE corner before getting stuck above what I learned today (just before adding this update) was the real Sunnyside Two route.

Sunnyside Two is indeed a class 4 route and much easier than the Southern Squeeze route described above (that's my own made-up name).

The real Sunnyside Two starts just along the Mallory Cave trail along the south side of Der Zerkle but it's easy to be mislead by the signs - you want the blank sign below the Mallory Cave sign - if you see the Der Zerkle Climbing Area sign you've gone too far - go back downhill to the other one (see photos below).

This sign is the one marking the base of Sunnyside Two.
If you reach this sign you've gone too far - go back downhill a little ways till you see the previous sign.

If you have Simon Testa's guidebook you'll recognize the picture from his description once you step past the sign.

Looking up from the start of Sunnyside Two.
Looking back down from partway up Sunnyside Two.

This is a fun, easy route - still class 4 but the easiest route in Testa's book and about the easiest you'll tend to find described for the Flatirons. Also a great warm-up for anyone wanting to get to the Southern Squeeze route I made up as described in the first part of this report.

Almost at the top of Sunnyside Two - you can see Der Zerkle's summit sticking out.

Below are a couple more photos with cheesy phone annotation to make the route more obvious.

Sunnyside Two tops out in the clearing but the Der Zerkle summit - right in front of the chimney described previously.
Looking down from Overview Rock at the ending portion of Sunnyside Two. Same big rock as last photo only from above.

There's a route from the NE corner of Der Zerkle that almost connects to Sunnyside Two but I couldn't handle the last 15ft or so needed to drop off an overhang above the route down to the little scrawny tree. I'm guessing at least some mid class 5 moves or higher would be needed to connect it. Until I can possibly prove that in later years I won't bother to describe that route as it has some dangerous ledges that I don't want to lure the inexperienced onto - but if you're a solid climber just follow the ridges and lips...

Starting back down Sunnyside Two.
This is where my route from the NE corner of Der Zerkle dead ended just above Sunnyside Two. The last 15ft to the tree was beyond my ability...

I might do some more of these if I find other routes that strike my fancy. In the meantime, have fun and stay safe!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
02/04/2021 13:19
Felt my heart rate go up reading this one. Needless to say, I won't be following in your footsteps...

Nice report
02/07/2021 23:18
Nice report on a wonderful area.

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