Last weekend I was hanging out at my buddy John’s place drinking beers and talking about climbing. A friend of his stopped in, having just climbed the Notch on Long’s. After half an hour of BS’ing about climbing, he mentioned wanting to climb the Diamond.
“Well, what are you up to on Tuesday?” I asked.
“I’m funemployed…..I think I could make that work!” said Matt.
Done, plan hatched, partner found. Long’s Peak has been a big part of my life, since I first heard about the mountain as a newbie climber in Pittsburgh. I have been itching to get on the Diamond for years. I took a trip out west in 2003, thinking we would crush all the classic lines in the Tetons and Winds and then come to Colorado and cruise the Casual Route, but after learning our capabilities we stuck to Wyoming and make a month of 5.7 alpine lines. I tried again to climb the Diamond nearly ten years ago in my first summer living in Estes Park. I carried a ring in my pocket, and after realizing that the North Chimney was no place to be with a dozen parties ahead, we bailed, I popped the question, and we hiked out happily engaged.
In the intervening years, the pieces never fell into place for me to get back up there. Now, single again, I have been climbing as much as my free time allows, and the itch hadn’t lessened. So my newest partner and I loaded up on Monday after work and slept in Matt’s Subaru. 3am Tuesday we hit the trail, miles slipping by in the dark, talking about climbing and relationships and worrying about snow and conditions.
Daylight found us trying not to slide down Mill’s Glacier in approach shoes. I let to the base of the chimney with Matt’s microspikes and a nut tool for an improvised axe, got on rock, and let the terrifyingly loose pitches to Broadway. What began as whispy clouds turned into full whiteout, and I shivered as Matt followed.
“I think we might be done,” I remarked as Matt looked over the topo, hand shaking with cold. “Agreed, I’m a bit sketched out right now,” he came back. We talked it over, and decided to go to the base of the route. As Matt took care of some business with a wag bag on Broadway, the weather cleared and our psyche came back.
“What the hell, I’ll lead a pitch,” I said. I pulled on edges and yarded shamelessly on draws clipped to old pitons, all thoughts of style and freeclimbing lost in the face of old school 5.9 climbing at 12,500′. We found adequate retreat anchors every so often, so we kept going despite our relatively slow pace and occasional raindrops. After four pitches, with another whiteout blocking the life-giving sun, we looked at the clock and opted for retreat rather than all night epic. Backing off went as smoothly as can be expected on a big alpine climb, and by 8pm we were kicking off shoes and drinking beer in the parking lot.
My complete ascent of the Diamond still awaits.
Yesterday, Mike Newlands, Jess Miltenberger, Adam Hufford and I went up to Jewel Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park for a casual day of ice climbing. We had stunningly perfect weather for the hike in. I lead the first pitch in solid style, feeling quite comfortable in my new Vasque single boots. Pysched on the Boa lacing.
We each took a turn on toprope. Jess learned quickly how to get into a groove and topped out on her first attempt…but dealt with a bout of “screaming barfies” while rewarming her hands at the base. Adam led two pitches later in the day, and I took photos from the top. Topped it off with beer and chili rellenos at Ed’s in downtown Estes. All in all a great day.
To make it easier to experience America’s Great Outdoors, the National Park Service is waiving entrance fees, so visitors can enjoy all 392 national parks for free April 17-25.
In addition, many national park concessioners are offering special promotions that are certain to add to your fun.
Took advantage of a warm afternoon to swing tools at Hidden Falls. There was a party of two pulling their rope and packing when we arrived around 2pm; we had the ice to ourselves as the sun sank into the Divide. We each took a half-dozen laps, hooking wherever possible to preserve this super popular ice crag. Feels good to get out!
Took a hike today up into Glacier Gorge to swing tools and check out the Black Lake Area. Super glad we didn’t take skis….would have been a scrape-fest. And was, for the folks who tried. All Mixed Up looks quite thin. We climbed a sweet one pitch WI2-3 just below Black Lake, sticking to the left side. I think the climb is named “Reflections” but it wasn’t the WI3-4 that Mountain Project claims. Afterwards we checked out the Black Lake Slabs which appear to be in but thin, especially at the top. West Gully looks pretty good. We’ll definitely head back up there for some more winter fun. Can’t hope for too many days with weather like today, though!
Yes, we threw ourselves against the flanks of Longs Peak in winter yet again, and as before were tossed away like so many rag dolls. We didn’t have much ambition this morning; had the weather been bluebird we may have perservered. As it was, though (windy, cool, snowy, windy, and windy) we opted to turn back around treeline after snapping a few photos. A great hike and an early morning, but no winter summit for us.