The Diamond. It calls people from all over the world to come and test themselves. Well, when I spent the summer a mere 18.8 miles South of the ranger station I could see Longs on many of my training runs and it just looks so amazing I wanted to get up there and see how it goes.
I spent some time trying to talk my friend Josh into going with me because he climbed slightly harder sport 11s than I did but after several trad climbs in the park and some sport around the Golden Mesa and the Ironclads it was evident that we would probably either take falls at the crux or aid it. Then he went to Chile to ski with his girlfriend and I bought a Silent Partner.
The other candidate was Clay who had trad led one pitch of 12b and regularly flashed 11s trad climbing. The problem was we had never climbed together and he was a little younger with less committing route experience. I figured those were only minor details and talked him into it. We set the date(s) for the Tuesday after the camp we worked at closed for the summer with the option of Wednesday and Thursday if the weather was bad. Well, I started checking the forecast a few days out and Tuesday said "Lots of sun" and I can't remember a forecast saying that often so Tuesday was the day.
We seperated the rack taking like 15 cams from 00 metolious to old #4 camalot, 17 standard or close to standard length runners, two large hexs (which we never used), four small tricams (white to red), and a set and a half of nuts. We also had a vague strategy that I would lead more of the 5.8 and below pitches because I had lots of endurace and he would lead the harder pitches because he climbed 5.12s. I would also carry the pack on the approach because we wanted him to save all the strength for the hard pitches so that we wouldn't had to deal with the potential of a large leader fall.
We woke up at 1:00 AM. Within 10 minutes we were in the truck headed toward the trailhead listening to Weezer or something and not seeing any other cars on the road at all. It was an interesting car ride because we were both heading for the biggest, most committing thing either of us had ever done. If we were going to quit this was the best place to do it. We didn't talk about it but we both had doubts that we would be able to do it.
We pulled into the parking lot at 1:40. Some simple gear packing and putting the headlamps on while two or three other parties were spread out across the parking lot. We started hiking at 1:45 talking occasionally but doing most of the hike in silence just absorbed by out thoughts and fears of the upcoming day. We were hiking very fast and began passing a few groups of hikers. We reached the junction to chasm view and stopped to eat and drink for a few minutes. Then we sped off toward the lake hoping that we were the only or one of the very few climbing groups that day because we hadn't talked to a single other group headed for the Diamond. More hiking up the easy cliff then around the lake and up some talus to some snow to what we thought was the start of Field's Chimney. A little dancing up bulletproof ice that clay led cutting steps with a rock as he went. A short section but without crampons it was slow. At the end of the snow we decided to rope up (at my request) and while we were doing that the first party caught us. They were going to do D-7 and brought a pair of crampons for the leader and then the second would use a fixed line to get up. Then they free soloed the chimney.
We started up the chimney and that's when the second group got closer. Origionally, I was going to lead the chimney and save Clay's strength but it was dark and I didn't really want to do it in the dark so Clay led up. We simul-climbed the chimney using a bunch of draws cause it's fairly long and not totally easy and it's loose. We got to Broadway and the group right behind us got there just after us. So we were first. Our original hope was to be second behind a fast team and there to not be any other teams so that we wouldn't slow anyone down.
So I didn't even take the rack to lead the first pitch because I already had most of it on my harness from seconding the chimney and we were in a hurry. I led a terrible pitch with too much rope drag by going off to the left and then back right. It slowed us down and the second group went strait up and caught us at the belay. One of their climbers had done the route before so we let them pass and do the short pitch to the beginning of the 5.9 crack. We thought that this was the strong group we were looking for. It also became obvious that there were a few too many groups for this route that were starting to build up on Broadway. After the group passed us we waited for their second to start the pitch so that we wouldn't get in the way. This was the biggest waste of time we had all day. We basically stood on this little ledge for an hour, maybe only half an hour but it seemed slow.
Clay led up the short 5.6 pitch and we reracked before the 5.9 which he led and then traversed out left to a hanging sling belay. I followed feeling great on the 5.9 but getting tired. Then I went across the 5.7 and maybe 40 feet from the end there was a wet section and I was pumped from the 9 and well trying to cross it I popped off and did a 15-20 foot pendulum. I scraped my right arm against the side so that I got a two inch long blood blister and then my arm started to swell up about 7 inches in front of my elbow and about 2 inches behind it. Not cool. I made it to the belay station. At that point it was pretty painful. I had only limited range of motion and it was throbbing. Not broken but just seriously bruised and scraped.
I was so committed to doing this that I really didn't want to bail. But my arm hurt so bad, like a 6 out of 10 that there was no way I was really going to be able to feel comfortable leading any more. So we reracked and neither one of us talked about giving up and starting to rap. We both wanted this and after hours of work we weren't about to give up. So we made the agreement that Clay would do the rest of the leading. I felt bad because it now made our situation a little bit delicate. If Clay got pumped before the crux he could take a large fall or the groups behind us would get too mad because we were going slow.
He led up the 5.8 corner, which is a really nice corner, and the third group arrived at the hanging belay I was at. He suggested that maybe we should rappel. I told him that I didn't think my arm was that bad. He also told me there were two other groups behind him, a man and a woman and Eli Hemuth with clients. Five groups on a Tuesday! We didn't expect that. I don't think anyone did.
I followed and it was pretty standard climbing. On the sloping ledge I finally took the backpack off so we could get drinks and food and Clay was putting a stocking hat on because we were in the shade and while undoing his helmet knocked his headlamp off and it was: bounce, bounce, gone. I took two falls at one of the 5.8 parts at one move. So it was a good thing that he led. We made it up to the Yellow Wall Bivy ledge and could watch the group in front of us head up the crux, the group behind us was still there but the other two groups had rapped. I was getting tired and I told clay to just fix the rope when he got up there and I would use the tiblocs that we brought to ascend the rope because the way the 5.8 was treating me I didn't think a 10 at 14,000 feet would happen.
Clay led up. The group below pulled out a pipe and started smoking which was crazy! I didn't expect to have people smoking weed up there! Eventually he fixed the rope after grabbing some gear on the ascent, and I followed. It went well except the squeeze chimney because I'm not a big person and it would have been more fun to climb that. But I did manage to hit my elbow the wrong way in it a few times and the searing pain kept me from regretting my decision to ascend the rope.
Finally at the hanging belay on table ledge crack. WOW! Not the best fixed gear with 1500 feet of air below. I didn't look down for the sake of looking down at this one. I caught some glimpses and that was good enough. It was pretty scary. We had a piton and a fixed nut attached to two quickdraws backed up by another piton and my tether was attached to those two nonlocking carabiners. It was the least comfortable I felt the whole trip. Finally, Clay led off left and I eventually followed after the other leader got up there and was amazed how hard it was. He said more like an 11. I followed left over a 5.8 that I thought was easier than the 5.7 I fell on.
Past the chained rappel bolts to a wide table ledge crack belay. The end of the hard part! Then we simul-climbed a few hundred feet up Kieners. We unroped and made it to the summit around 5:35 PM!
After only 15 or twenty minutes on top and eating food and drinking water. We headed down the deserted Keyhole route. We had had enough of ropes for the day. We also traded loads. Clay took the backpack after I had carried it like 16 hours and I took the rope. There were clouds in the sky but nothing threatening and that was amazing because how often in August are there days with no rain?
A few minutes into the descent Clay blazed ahead and I slowly made my way down. I don't like descending. At one point I slipped a few inches and kind of plopped down on a rock. I wanted to cry. We had done so much but it was at least three hours of downhill left. I got over it and kept going down. We were doing well until we lost the trail blazes and tried to go over the false keyhole. That was another 15 minutes lost. We got back on the trail and through boulder field. Going past the tents was really fun. A few people just starred at us. One middle aged woman offered us supper because she was concerned about us, but we weren't really hungry and we had an hour and a half or two of hiking left.
Down, down, down, and at the trail sign for 4.2 miles Clay told me later he wanted to cry because he was tired. We flipped the headlamp (singular) on below the trail junction for chasm lake and spent the last hour mostly in silence. Hungry, thirsty, tired, we were ready for the end.
At about 10 PM we strode into the parking lot and got in and ate and drank stuff we had left behind. We drove back to camp and the starbucks I drank just after we got in the truck didn't keep me awake. It had been a great day! It had also been 20:15 on the go and 22 total awake with a lot of that being relatively hard stuff so I was very happy for it to be over.
What's next? I don't know...