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.