When Annie Weinmann walked in one particularly sweaty afternoon in late June, she casually mentioned shaving a few minutes off her First Flatiron scramble. She’d been quietly heading up to Chautauqua in the weeks prior, sometimes returning with road rash, and often with stories of long, rambling linkups that verged on masochistic, occasionally including rollerblades.
So when she mentioned a record, it wasn’t terribly surprising. Weinmann, 28, is a woman of many talents: she’s a data engineer by day, and a climber/backcountry skier/DIY car mechanic by night. Weinmann had shaved over four minutes off the women’s record for the First Flatiron, completing a roundtrip ascent, trailhead to trailhead, in 43 minutes 20 seconds.
This wasn’t some lofty, years-long effort. In fact, when Weinmann soloed the First Flatiron for the first time in early 2019, attempting a speed record was the last thing on her mind. Her memory of that scramble is that it felt “sketchy.”
Not long after, a woman she climbed with named Sara mentioned that she had tried to break Flatirons speed records in the past. Intrigued, Weinmann did some research. She quickly dismissed the idea, until she did the Quinfecta—the first five Flatiron summits in one day—with a friend last summer. She realized she was actually pretty good at scrambling, so she started timing herself.
The Flatirons are iconic. Banks, dentist offices, and even shopping malls are named after the photogenic rock formations that line the western edge of town. Scrambling—a mixture of running, hiking and climbing up rocky terrain without ropes—is a skill that can be honed quickly in the Flatirons, where low-angled sandstone slabs allow climbers to move fast and light.
Soloing the First Flatiron is a common undertaking for experienced Boulder climbers, but isn’t a casual affair. A free-solo ascent requires a high level of skill and route-finding confidence; a wrong turn can lead into difficult terrain. The Direct Route on the East Face is rated 5.6, and seasoned scramblers often complete the full roundtrip in approach shoes. It entails about 1,000 feet of technical climbing, and if ascended with a 60-meter rope, it can be done in roughly 10 pitches.
Weinmann’s goal was to beat the women’s record of 47 minutes 29 seconds, set in 2018 by Sonia Buckley. By late fall 2019, she was still 25 minutes off the record, but was often navigating icy trails, which she says slowed her down.
In April, Weinmann hadn’t improved much, spending over 30 minutes on the face alone.
“I just couldn’t get there mentally,” Weinmann says. The turning point, she says, was when she started talking to friends about her plans to break the record. “When you start to talk with other people about what you’re going to do, then you start to believe it. It makes it more real.”
So Weinmann set a goal for herself: 50,000-feet of vertical running, climbing and scrambling in May. She also bought a pair of rollerblades, skating dozens of miles on the bike trails around Boulder when she needed a break from the vertical.
“Sometimes while I was out scrambling, I’d be doing new routes, and they didn’t feel very good. For a while, all scrambling started to feel really bad,” she admits.
Weinmann asked a friend to help her with the beta on the Direct Route, which she says made a big difference in her overall time. “After that I had a lot more confidence that I was going the right way, and that I had the route dialed in. I wasn’t as scared to push it on the speed.”
After the new beta, and roughly 30k of scrambling training in a matter of weeks, Weinmann says she was in a much better headspace to go for the record.
Also during this time, she joined the Satan’s Minions, becoming one of just a few women in the dedicated group of Flatirons scramblers. Founded by Bill Wright about 20 years ago, the Minions are known for their frequent dawn missions up the Flatirons, and it’s a selective group; prospective members must first undergo an “interview scramble” with Wright.
“Just don’t make me nervous,” Wright told her.
Finally, she felt ready to really try for the record. On the hot and humid afternoon of June 22, Weinmann started up the trail after work. She flew up the steep .88-mile approach in 14 minutes, and spent just 16 minutes soloing the 1,000-foot face. The 1.3-mile descent took just 13 minutes. As is the case with many people who set speed records, Weinmann says she felt herself enter a flow-state.
“At some points I didn’t even take the route I’d planned, but I had confidence in my feet to keep moving and stay focused,” she says
She moved intuitively. When she barrelled down the trail and reached the finish, she had shaved over four minutes off the record.
So what’s next? “Sub-40,” Weinmann says, adding that if she doesn’t get it, she wants someone else to.
The men’s speed record is 30 minutes, 19 seconds set by Kyle Richardson in October 2019. Weinmann says the women’s record shouldn’t be far behind.
“I really hope this raises the bar for women,” Weinmann says. “Scrambling has always been really male dominated. There’s a huge gap there—I hope someone takes advantage and totally crushes the record.”