| The Siren of the Diamond.
September 06, 2012
~12.7 Miles, ~5,500 Gain
Casual Route 5.10a; done in 5 pitches.
When I first gazed at the Diamond, I knew I wanted to climb its magnificent granite face but figured I would never become a good enough trad climber to actually achieve this goal. An alpine grade IV climb never seemed realistic. For the longest time I was a mediocre sport leader and a weak trad leader as I was leading 9-low 10 sport and trad 7-8s. This last summer I decided to step up my game and get more days on rock to improve my skills. At the start of the summer, I wanted to primarily focus on the Diamond and because of that, my yearly average of bagging 13ers took a hit.
At the start of September, I felt the summer had already passed and I still hadn't climbed the Diamond but there was a good reason. Near the end of August, I was consistently and confidently leading 11 sport and 10 trad. I was anticipating an end of August ascent of the Diamond; however, I was starting up a less traveled 10b in Eldo, and my foot slipped on a lichen hold and I took a 18 foot ground fall blowing 3 pieces of gear (my two smallest cams and a walking nut.) A completely unexpected fall. I was extremely lucky and only walked away with a lacerated gash on my scalp, which in hindsight, I should have probably gotten a stitch or two. That could have easily been an ankle breaker or collar bone snapper. It's a damn good thing I was wearing a helmet or I probably wouldn't be walkin' or talkin' right now. At least I got a new helmet out of the deal.
Imagine what this would look like if I wasn't wearing a helmet. (photo by SarahT)
For a week after my ground deck, I decided not to do any climbing, running or other activities to ensure that any mild concussions or other side effects would heal. Due to the fall, I was unsure of how my head would do back on lead. Would I be scared s*%tless? Loose my drive to climb hard technical terrain? On my first trad climb after the fall, I felt a little nervous but that quickly passed and climbing some harder sport helped. I still enjoyed technical climbing. With some climbs back in Eldo, I felt that my nerves were calm and my head was back in the game but was it too late for the Diamond?
My regular rock partner, Justin, had attempted the Diamond last year but had to bail due to an injury from his other rock climbing partner, Jack. Justin had bivyed with Jack near Chasm View above the Boulder Field, rappelled to Broadway via Chasm View and started their climb. The first few pitches went well but when Jack was leading the crux pitch, he dislocated his shoulder in the 5.8 squeeze chimney. They ended up doing an epic retreat from the Yellow Wall Bivy Ledge as Justin had to do everything for Jack since his shoulder and arm were completely out of commission. Justin described doing king swings on rappel looking for anchors or fixed pins for further retreat. During their time consuming descent weather engulfed them with sleet and poor visibility. Once they reached Chasm Lake, Justin still had to climb back up to Chasm View to retrieve both of their gear, carry the gear and tend to Jack as they returned to the trailhead for an over 24 hour epic.
Now that I felt my confidence was back, I had hinted to Justin that I wanted to climb the Diamond. We had always discussed climbing the Diamond but nothing actually formulated. We had set a date, the 6th as a tentative plan a week prior and to my surprise when I called him at 3:00 PM on the 5th, he was still game. I packed my gear and tried to go to bed around 6 PM. Sleeping only 4-5 hours, I woke up at 12:30 AM and made my way to Justin's house in Golden. We left his place and made the drive to the Longs Peak trailhead and after sorting gear and some final packing, we started hiking up the trail at 3:00 AM.
We had debated which approach was going to be the most beneficial for our ascent of the Diamond. It was either the Chasm Lake approach with a climb of the North Chimney to Broadway or rappel in from Chasm View to Broadway. Being a peak bagger, I wanted to summit and a rappel from Chasm View seemed the most logical since we could just rappel the North Face and be at our packs without having to rappel the lower wall. However, if we had to bail, we would be out of position to return to our packs. Initially we thought rappelling in the dark would be easier than climbing the North Chimney in the dark but that didn't matter since it was daylight by the time we arrived at the rappels at 6:00 AM.
Sunrise over Mt. Lady Washington.
When we arrived at Chasm View, we ran into a party that had bivied near the rappel anchors and was also planning on climbing the Casual. Since they didn't seem to be in a hurry, we set up our double rope rappel and started down towards Broadway. I think they also wanted to follow us since Justin knew the way. We did 3 sets of rappels down to Broadway from Chasm View. The first two required 2 ropes and the last rappel only required a single rope (70M) rappel.
Justin starting the first rappel from Chasm View.
The upper Diamond in the morning light.
Looking down the Chasm View raps.
Justin starting the second Chasm View rap.
Upper Diamond alpenglow.
Lower Diamond alpenglow.
While pulling the rope after our second rappel, the rope got caught and I had to do some sketchy scrambling halfway way back up the rappel wall to untangle the rope which knotted itself on a rock horn. I also think the last single rope rappel could be down-climbed. Once on Broadway, there was some exposed class 3-4 scrambling required to reach the base of the route.
The Diamond from Broadway.
Looking up the face of the Diamond from the base of the Casual Route was impressive. In an effort to save time, we decided to link the first 3 pitches with some simul climbing. Justin made decent time on the first 5.4 pitch and then had some rope drag issues after the 5.9 section on the 5.7 traverse. When I was about halfway up the 5.4 pitch Justin had made it to the fixed the anchors and put me on belay. I enjoyed the 5.9 crack but didn't really fancy the 5.7 traverse pitch. To our surprise, there was a constant shower of ice falling off from the upper face. I was also impressed that two Canadian ladies were ahead of us climbing D1. A stout (5.12a) less traveled route.
Looking up the first pitch.
Justin on the 5.9 fingers section (hes hard to find)
Simul climbing. Justin on the 5.7 traverse.
Justin on the 5.7 traverse.
Looking down the first 5.4 pitch.
Badass. Party on D1.
Once I reached Justin, we switched off gear and I started up a 5.8 chimney. That was the end of the sunshine for the day until we would reach the summit. The chimney was a bitch. I struggled, gasped for air and cursed until I wizened up and climbed on the outside of the chimney. That stupid dirty chimney spanked me. Climbing beyond the chimney was enjoyable and I belayed at a fixed anchor at the start of the dihedral pitch. The ledge that I belayed at was completely covered in a thin coat of ice. As I was belaying, every 5-10 minutes I would get showered by ice falling from the right hand dihedral. It was cold and I was wearing everything I had brought. My fleece, long johns, hat, gloves and rain shell. Props for those sick masochists that aid D7 in the winter. Fk that.
Looking down before the 5.8 squeeze chimney after the 5.7 traverse pitch. Justin describing where the pins are for the following party.
Justin followed and then started up the upper 5.8 dihedral pitch. As Justin was leading, I heard a roar from the party behind us followed by an F-bomb. When the leader from the party behind us reached the ledge I was belaying on, he mentioned he took a pretty good lead fall on a fixed nut just above the squeeze chimney. Eek. Finally, Justin called off belay. I was freezing, tired of getting pelted with falling ice and ready to warm up climbing.
Justin starting the 5.8 dihedral pitch.
Justin higher in the dihedral.
I had to aid the first 2-3 moves off of the ledge due to the holds being coated in ice. The climbing up the dihedral was amazing and I would have probably enjoyed it more if I could feel my feet which were frozen. Feeling for holds was tough. I reached Justin who was belaying in a cave ledge just below the Yellow Wall Bivy Ledge. Delighted, I took off my shoes to warm up my toes. Although I had just climbed I still hadn't really warmed up. We swapped gear and I started up the crux pitch.
Looking down the 5.8 dihedral.
Looking up the 5.8 dihedral pitch.
Looking down the 5.8 dihedral.
From our belay station, I climbed 20 feet to the Yellow Wall Bivy Ledge, and then started up a really enjoyable sustained 5.9 finger crack. The exposure was intense. I climbed upward toward the 5.8 squeeze chimney before the crux. And I wasn't particularly excited about another squeeze chimney since I got so spanked on the first chimney. This chimney was a little easier. Gasping for air after the chimney, I had to hang for a minute and catch my breath. Moving upward, I was definitely feeling tired. I was not used to this much hard climbing at 14,000 feet. The pro in the chimney wasn't stellar but where was I going to fall?
Looking down the 5.9 fingers before the 5.8 squeeze chimney on the crux pitch.
Squeeze chimney. I can't wait.
Making the final push, I protected and pulled the crux. Oh so good and so exposed. I was finally starting to warm up. Relieved, I reached table ledge, set up an anchor and put Justin on belay. Justin made good time up the crux pitch and slung our small pack on a runner below him as he climbed the chimney. Squeeze chimneys and backpacks do not mix well. Struggling just a bit due to a swinging backpack, Justin eloquently pulled the crux and met me at the belay station. My lips were tingling and my head was light. Just one more pitch.
Chasm Lake from the top of the crux pitch.
Justin on the crux pitch. 5.9 section.
Justin about to pull the 5.10a crux.
Taking the lead, Justin started his way across Table Ledge following a few fixed pins. We had tossed around the idea of doing the Forrest Finish but we were tired and couldn't exactly locate the start of the Forrest Finish so we just finished, as most do, on Table Ledge. From the left side of Table Ledge, we joined upper Kieners and made good time to the summit. The sunshine was very welcoming as we crested the final few hundred feet to the summit where we arrived at 3:50 PM. That took a bit longer than we had anticipated but was probably one of the most rewarding climbing days I have ever done. Stellar climbing in an outstanding setting.
Justin on the other side of Table Ledge.
After a short break, we descended the North Face and made one rappel back to our packs where we took a nice break. At our packs, I was surprised to see the party that was behind us still on the crux pitch with the Canadian chicks still tearing up the last 2 pitches on D1. Weather was starting to roll in and it felt good to be off of the mountain.
Ice on the north face.
Party behind us just below the crux and the party on D1 (yellow jacket).
Packing up, we started our way back towards the Boulder Field to the cattle trail of the Keyhole Route. The trail was welcoming. Once back on the trail, we both went into zombie mode and made our way to my car. We reached the car just a little after dark at 8:00 PM for one of the most rewarding 17 hour days ever.
Here is the route description, gear recommendations, thoughts and ideas. The pitches are described in their traditional manner.
Pitch 1: 5.4. Climb up the left side of the D1 pillar to the base of the finger crack. The start is easy to find.
Pitch 2: 5.9. The wall steepens to vertical and follows a finger crack to the top which is marked by a second fixed pin.
Pitch 3: 5.7 PG-13/R. From the top of the second fixed pin on pitch 2, traverse left angling upward on a 5.7 slab to a horrible hanging belay. The belay has to be reached by down-climbing 5-8 feet after the last fixed pin. Only 3 fixed pins protect the traverse with maybe the option for 2 other pieces of gear.
Pitch 4: 5.8 Climb back up the last fixed pin on the 5.7 traverse and start up a strenuous 5.8 chimney. Climbing on the outside of the chimney makes life much easier. Once out of the chimney, enjoy 5.7-8 climbing to a ledge. I recommend belaying at a flat wide ledge 5-10 feet below the fixed anchor.
Pitch 5: 5.8+. From the ledge/fixed anchor, climb up a sustained beautiful 5.8 dihedral. Good wide footwork makes life easier and more enjoyable. Either belay at the Yellow Wall Bivy Ledge (YWBL) or a ledge with a small cave 20 feet below the YWBL.
Pitch 6: 5.10a. The money pitch. From the YWBL, climb up an enjoyable sustained 5.9 finger crack with some fixed pins. After the 5.9 finger crack, enter the physical 5.8 squeeze chimney. Near the top of the chimney, gasp for air, and pull the 5.10a crux. A wide right foot with a hand jam makes the crux reasonable. The crux protects great with a BD #2. There are also 2 fixed nuts just below the crux after the chimney. After pulling the crux make some 5.9 moves to Table Ledge and belay at a fixed nut and pin.
Pitch 7: 5.8. Traverse left and protect well for the second (eats up #2 and #3s). Follow some fixed pins heading down and then back up to Table Ledge. Belay at a fixed anchor. From the fixed anchor, hike off Table Ledge, join upper Kieners, the Diamond Step and then to the summit or rappel D7 (5 50M raps to Broadway and then another 3-4 raps down the Crack of Delight).
We had double BD cams from #.3 to #3 with triple #1, #2, single #4 and a single set of nuts. The climb could probably be managed on a double set without a #4 but I found the #4 handy in the squeeze chimneys. We took 16 long runners and 4 draws but also combined the first 3 pitches where we needed the longer runners. One could probably manage with 10 runners and 5 draws.
For the rope, we used a 70 M rope and tagged a 60M rope. Without a doubt, I would want 2 70 M alpine doubles or single alpine 70M with a 70M 6mm pull chord but neither Justin or I own that gear. 2 ropes were heavy. Bailing with just 1 rope would be beyond epic.
If I were to repeat the climb, I would cruise the first 5.4 pitch and combine pitches 2 and 3. Although we combined the first 3 pitches, the rope drag was horrendous. At the top of 4th pitch, belay at a better ledge below the fixed anchor which would be more comfortable and would allow one to watch the leader climb most of the 5th pitch.
Any future trips I would probably want to bivy; however, it was nice to go light and fast despite carrying 2 ropes. Waking up at 12:30 AM, driving, hiking the approach, climbing, and returning in a single day was rough. If I didn't want to summit, I would bivy at Chasm Lake, climb the route and rappel D7.
I can't wait to go back to try Pervertical Sanctuary, or if I ever get good enough, climb D7 free.
Casual Route topo.
Chasm View rappel topo.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):