| Climbing the Diamond at 18 Years Old
This One's for Kevin. One of his dream climbs was to climb the Diamond.
Some people dream about getting a diamond. I dream of climbing the Diamond. Sure the easiest route up it is only a stiff 5.10a but there are so many factors that make the Diamond the most coveted and wanted alpine faces in the U.S. Not only is it really hard but by the time you get to the crux, you have climbed over 1500 feet of vertical ground. That is all vertical on the Diamond. It's all above 13,000 feet. You also experience the cold effects and with this trip, my hands were getting dangerously cold if I did not move them enough. Not many people can handle the exposure you get on this with some of the wildest terrain out there. Two thousand vertical feet below you. So you approach the route with a 6 mile approach. You climb alot of the stiff route with frozen fingers, and by the time you get to the crux, it's probably already snowing/lightning. Then you got a long descent ahead of you. It's a serious objective not to be taken lightly. Not a ton of people do it.
Over this last couple of years, some of you who have climbed with me have seen me really push myself rock climbing wise. Whether that is sport or trad climbing. I got up to leading a couple 5.12's and a ton of 5.11's. When choosing such a serious goal, I chose other climbs in the park to train on. Me and Danny were getting ready for the dream climb. Since I got started in climbing, the Diamond has been a mega goal. It's a huge accomplishment. So many people dream about it but very few complete it. I have read over and over many accounts of it from famous climbers and there books to just trip reports. Everything about it has appealed to me. It's the stepping stone for what I want to do in the future, 8,000 meter peaks, Eiger North Face and etc. I never thought I would achieve it until I was in my 20's. That face is just plain intimidating. World class climbers have trained on it and to climb on the same ground as them, is well tough. It throws everything at you.
The Casual Route Marked on the Diamond with the North Chimney Approach
When talking to my climbing partner, Danny, we had always mentioned the Diamond. But honestly did we really think we were ready for it? As I am only 18 and he is 20. The answer was yes. Through my road trip and multiple days spent in the Park, Lumpy Ridge, Eldo, Clear Creek, and 14'er experience I knew I was ready. We planned to hit it in August but something happened. In late July, Danny could not get one day off for the next month which would put the Diamond out of condition. I was sad because I go up to Longs so much for ice/mixed climbing in the Fall/Winter/Spring. I was tired of looking at it and not being able to climb it when I could. I am really specific on my climbing partner for such an objective. You have got to know your stuff so Danny was who I prefered. Plus we wanted to tackle it together as a young team.
Me on a winter attempt of the Notch Couloir wanting to climb the Diamond
I got to a business meeting for work. I get a text from Danny and secretly open it. It says,"Hey I got Saturday off, Want to go do the Diamond??" My eyes got huge while my boss was wondering what was up. I was about to reply with,"you wouldn't understand." I had originally planned to leave for the Devils Tower and Tetons but I pushed that ahead by a day. I was so happy. I was going to attempt the Diamond at 18 years old! This puts me at some of the youngest climbers to ever do it behind Tommy Caldwell and a few more. This is what climbing is all about. Living your life to the fullest. I was also nervous because I knew this was going to be hard. I have been up Long's many times but have always stopped from the summit. I always wanted my first summit to be by the Diamond. And that was a promise I made to myself.
As we headed for Longs we are both more excited then ever before. We carried a single rack of cams and a double set of nuts along with two ropes if the weather is bad and for hauling a pack on pitches where you can't wear one due to squeeze chimney's. The weather looked good for the first time in a few weeks. When we got there, everyone looked at us in amazement. Soon we got to Chasm Lake at around 7 on Friday night. I had brought a number 5 cam because I thought it might protect the run out squeeze chimney on the crux. I soon was talking to a couple people on the trail about that. They said to leave it to fight off the marmots. The marmots are very bad up there. I didn't realize that those couple of people I was talking to was Tommy Caldwell and Cedar Wright! I was amazed. Tommy has been a hero of mine.
Six miles later we were looking for a bivy spot. It seemed like every one of them was taken. Mostly from others doing the Kiener's route. We kept looking and went higher by the North Chimney. We soon found a nice bivy cave that was in a bunk bead formation. We set up our sleeping bags and ate and then went to bed with the Diamond right above our heads.
At the base
We woke up at 4 in the morning and starting heading off. I knew I would not see this cave for quite a while. We approached the North Chimney. For those that are not familiar with the route, the North Chimney forms the approach to the Diamond. It's about 700 feet of loose climbing. Include a few parties on it and it becomes dangerous rockfall. Me and Danny simul-climbed it instead of soloing. It was at the 5.6 range. Not to hard at all.
Towards the top of the North Chimney
We soon approached Broadway and the start of the Casual Route. I got ready to lead the first pitch.
Me ready to lead the 1st pitch on Broadway There was one party already on the Casual and two more coming. I threw the gear on and lead a rope stretching easy 5.8 pitch. I got to the start of the 5.9 finger crack and belayed Danny up. Danny lead the next pitch which included 40 feet of a moderate 5.9 finger crack and then a runout 5.7 traverse. This traverse was the sharp end for both the first and second. I started following it with the pack. This pack included a 15 pound rope, our rain gear, water, food. This all added up to make the pack feel like I was carrying a mule on my back. I started up the crack and my balance was thrown off. I peeled right off the crack and fell yelling. This was just 5.9, I thought to myself. I got back up and went up it. I then got to the traverse part of it. The pack was pulling me back. Even though this traverse was not so hard, with the pack, it was an adrenaline 100 ft. I hated my pack. I wanted it off. I soon got to the belay and threw off the pack in anger. I knew the pack had thrown off my balance on that pitch. On the harder climbing, balance is everything and I just hadn't adjusted to extra weight.
Limited leg room
Whoosh!! Ice the size of a mini cooper flied down right to our right. Everyone yelled rock! You could hear it right by your head. It was a little scary hearing it but it really did give the big wall feel to it with rockfall. It is indeed a huge wall. Ice continued to fall just about the whole way up. But we eventually escaped it on the upper pitches.
Danny gave me the gear at the hanging belay and I started leading the 5.9 3rd pitch. This pitch was awesome. Not only did I not have to wear the pack but my feet were just hanging out on mega exposure. I lead up a sustained 5.8-5.9 crack to get to the squeeze chimney.
Me leading the very steep 3rd pitch I soon got to the belay station behind the other party. I was out of cams though. So I made a very awesome anchor just out of nuts/stoppers. I was tired but enjoying this amazing climb.
I brought Danny up and it seemed he was not enjoying the pack either.
Danny all energized We were now on the shaded part of the climb with the dehidral blocking the sun. I pulled out my jacket and my fingers started to get cold. Danny lead up the dihedral and I had the priveledge of carrying the pack again. The dehidral was sustained laybacking. It was brutal at close to 14k and with a big pack. I was getting pumped out. My fingers were numb and had been numb for quite a while. I was putting them under my armpits every 15 feet or so, so they would not get to cold. It was playing a tole on me.
On the Endurance pitch carrying the mule
Soon enough we were at the Yellow Wall bivy ledge. This small ledge is the beginning of the crux pitch. There were two other parties on it. They both stated for us to go first since we were fast. One party's member had what seemed a VERY swollen anchor from a leader fall. I hoped he would be alright. Danny lead the crux pitch. My self-confidence was ruined since I took a fall on the 5.9 crack earlier with the pack on which threw off my balance. Mentally, I was not in it. It was just a bad climbing day for me. I thank Danny for picking up the slack. Climbing is like a roller coaster. It was just one of those days. The next pitch looked the most intimidating. Danny flew up it and started to belay me up. The clouds started to roll in and I was really hoping it would not rain. This pitch was mega. It had the most amazing exposure with 2,000 ft. of air below my feet. I started up the 9+ chimney looking face. It was akward. I then entered the squeeze chimney. I clipped the pack to the second rope so Danny could haul it up as it would not fit in the squeeze chimney. It was about as strenous as it gets at 14k. Inch by inch and grown by grown. I then reached the 10a crux. You have to pull a overhang off a small finger crack. I pulled it and smiled.
Pulling the crux. Look at the exposure! I knew I was back into my climbing groove. It was really that pack that was throwing everything off.
Looking down from the crux I was upset because I really could of lead this. Your mind decides though. We then traverse table ledge which was very sketchy.
The Sketchy Table ledge It included no feet and downward slopping holds and a blank face below discouraging a fall. I had my prusiks but I didnt want to use them. But soon enough we were at the Kiener's route. We talked to a few other parties asking how old we were. We replied confidently that we were getting a head start.
We got to the well earned summit at around 3 and got our summit pictures.
1rst summit of Longs via the Diamond!!!!!! We descended the Keyhole in thick fog. We then went accross the boulder field to the Camel's gully which was actually interesting to find. I was so exhausted. We soon packed up and headed down. It was the longest descent. I ate some tuna fish and got some energy. We got back down to the truck at around 11 or 12. It was a 19 or so hour day. Not my longest day but a very hard day with all the technical climbing. It was a dream come true though.
My dream has been fullfilled. I'm 18 and have climbed the Diamond. That is a well earned accomplishment. Not many kids have done that. Kevin would be proud of me. I have learned to be humble about whatever I do in the future. I climb because it's fun and it's my passion and I want to become the best at it. It was one of the most rewarding climbs I have ever done. I'm looking forward to my future. I am living my life to the fullest. You only have one life to live. I have no regrets and this is everything I have dreamed of! The Diamond gave me all it's challenges and I overcame them!
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