Long's Peak Diamond
This writeup is a year late, but I wanted to make sure I had something down for this great 2021 trip to the Long’s Peak Diamond with my good friend Mike Kerzhner. If you like hard multipitch climbing in the mountains as much as I do, then a trip to the Diamond is essential. There is nothing like it in North America – a beautiful high elevation wall stacked with hard routes. That’s coming from someone who loves the rock walls of the Cascades more than any other range.
After recently putting up Rubbernecker in the Washington Pass alpine, Washington now has a 5.14 alpine multipitch, and taken together with other routes like Backseat Driver, The Dark Side of Liberty, and Deep Blue – all mid to hard 5.13s – Washington definitely does not lack a legit collection of hard multipitch routes in the mountains. But the main thing Washington alpine multipitch climbing does not have is the elevation. The Washington alpine starts around six thousand feet and our alpine walls are generally starting at seven thousand. The Diamond starts nearly a mile higher!
Going into a 10 day trip, there were two routes on the Diamond that I wanted to check out – The Honeymoon is Over (5.13c, 1000ft, 7 pitches) and the new route, Gambler’s Fallacy (5.13b, 1000ft, 9 pitches), which at the time hadn’t seen a second-ascent. I knew it might be ambitious to try for both of them in such a short window.
First, Mike and I “warmed up” on Eroica (5.12b, 1000ft), which proved to be more then we bargained for! I was slammed by mild altitude sickness near the top of the wall and just wanted to lay down and take a nap. I was super fatigued and had a splitting headache but knew that the best thing I could do was to get down the mountain. Altitude can debilitate you, but to fix it you have to move! Down! Not lay down, though that’s absolutely the thing you want to do most. That first day was a 15 hour push. In the words of a sport climber, we got a little flash pumped (meaning, our chosen warmup was wayyy to hard and we suffered for our ambition). Climbing anything on this wall was serious.
Day two on the Diamond, we hiked to the top of Long’s and dropped into The Honeymoon is Over (THIO) to work it out on toprope. THIO has three pitches of 5.13 in a row, which at the time, was one of the most sustained multipitch routes I’d tried. Each pitch has its own character. The first and the crux pitch, a 5.13c, is characterized by sustained and technical laybacking, compression, and bad feet. The second, a 5.13b, is composed of boulders split with good rests. And the last, a 5.13a, is pumpy and powerful, and just not that much easier than the other two 5.13s!
Day three on the Diamond, we climbed THIO ground up. I sent leading every pitch, falling once on the 13c pitch. Mike sent the 13c and 13b pitches on TR, but was too exhausted from our cumulative efforts over the last 5 days to finish in good style.
After three climbing days on the Diamond over a span of 5 days, we needed to rest. we spent the next four days relaxing by the river, sport climbing, scrambling on the Flatirons, reading, and hanging out with friends. I needed time to build psych to go back to the Diamond. And I knew I had only one day left for the Diamond, so I needed to make it count. My objective would be to climb the new route Gambler’s Fallacy (5.13b) ground-up in-a-day, which had yet to see a second ascent.
Well, I lucked out, and after several hours of slowly inching my way up wet hand jams, kneebars, power laybacking, and insecure slab moves, I found myself at the top of Gambler’s Fallacy without falling once. A flashed second-ascent.
Climbing something that hard in the alpine first try is an accomplishment I’m very proud of. I was able to translate climbing skills – learned in the gym routesetting, at the local crags, and while traveling – to this harsh high-elevation environment, where conditions certainly are not comfortable. To me, climbing a route like this in this style is the fullest expression of my climbing craft.
Only 4 days on the Diamond, but that was all our 10 days and psych would allow! Certainly looking forward to making it back soon.
Deep Blue: A Dream First Ascent
Long's Peak Diamond
Seattle Design Festival Interview
Seeing Circuits: an Interview with the Bouldering Project
Vanishing Point 2.0: A Classic Route Modernized
Interview with Steven Dimmitt
Training Using Circuits
Dark Side of Liberty
Blue Jeans Direct: The End of the Canadian Rockies Ticklist
The Shining Uncut
Castles in the Sky
Index's First 5.14
Dark Side of the Valley
First Route in the Alaska Range
New York Gully