Massive slabs of red sandstone jut towards the sky from Boulder, Colorado’s Chautauqua Park, dramatically marking the Earth’s transition from the flatland prairies of the Midwest to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The 300 million-year-old formations were named “the Flatirons” by 19th century pioneers for their resemblance to, well, irons used to flatten clothing.
Most of Boulder, Colorado’s active residents either hike or trail run on the hundred-or-so miles of trails along the base of the Flatirons. Others climb the rocks, most often with ropes and other gear, and while taking their time. But there’s one group of Boulderites that starts off by trail running from their cars and doesn’t turn around, like everyone else does, when reaching the base of the Flatirons. Instead, they start climbing, as if the trail hadn’t ended at a sheer face of rock.
They’re known as Satan’s Minions Scrambling Club, started by climber, runner, and engineer, Bill Wright in the 1990s, and named so by a friend of a friend who thought Wright’s antics were so crazy that he “must be one of Satan’s minions.” Wright liked the label so much that it stuck.
These days, the group of men and women meet at a trailhead at dawn—because most Minions have office jobs—roughly once a week ready to run and climb. A short outing consists of running three miles total and scrambling up exposed rock, rated up to 5.6 in difficulty, for up to 1,500 feet in one shot or what would be six pitches, if they had a rope. From there they downclimb the backsides of the jagged peaks. Sometimes, they’ll carry equipment to rappel down from steep or notably technical drops. Once they regain footing on more horizontal ground, they run back down the rugged trails to their cars for a round-trip romp.
Often, they race against each other through a series of linkups—trail running to rock climbs and then linking up other trails to other climbs and back to the parking lot. The longest route combines 20 running miles and 15,000 feet of vertical.
So if you’re ever in the area and see tiny figures scrambling up the iconic rocks, give them a silent cheer—the devil’s work is never done.