mountain therapy….. for the most part.

The Diamond – Overhang Dihedral -> Casual Route – Long’s Peak, CO. [5.10c] (14,259)

Since I heard about it, the Diamond has always commanded my respect.  Video footage and photos have always left me in awe at this high altitude piece of earth.  Mostly all the recorded media combined showed climbers scaling the face in shadows after the sun has passed Long’s East face.  This added to the ominousness of the wall. More than all mountains before me, the respect translated into a healthy fear, so much so, that without the right pressures, I’m sure the fear could only have grown to undue proportions.

When arriving in Colorado, the season was already late, halfway through September, Long’s had recently received its first snowfall.  The season for the Diamond was out – “thank God,” a part of me sighed.  But then the rest of September received generous amounts of sun and none of the statistical snowfall/rainfall common for September.  The Diamond was in. The Diamond WAS IN!  Running laps on the Monkey Traverse in Flagstaff put me into shape and gave me the confidence that I would be in shape. We packed our bags and set out Sept 31st and began the climb on October 1st.

Woke up from our bivy and started the climb.  Instead of the North Chimney’s I saw this party ascend this route to the left instead.  I had heard about the rockfall hazard of the North Chimneys and would have preferred a climb rather and so I was able to do that.  It was hard and at one point, I said to myself, ‘leader must not fall.’  It is always better doing a climb with a hard grade not knowing the grade before hand as I found out later, that the 4 pitches that I had added onto the casual was called ‘overhang dihedral’ (10c). This bit of climbing would soon be our demise.

Starting out on the rest of the climb, leading all the rest of the pitches, reaching the 7th krux pitch I think of the Casual route, and went for it.. Clipped a good piton, clipped a really lose piton climbed up, and almost fell due to sheer exhaustion.  It was the closest to falling I have ever experienced on a bad piece, and for the first time in my life, I lost my cool, stepped into the Chimney and cried for a minute.  It was perhaps, in many ways, a defining moment for me, because I had hit the existential edge, and had to decide what to do from then on.  I regained myself, and finished the pitch.  Day-light was fading, and we realized that it would be a long night.  We bivied on Table Ledge for the night, and nearly froze to death as it dropped below 32 degrees F and had no bivy gear.  It was a long and cold October night, my greatest Epic to date. We slept none, but did everything to keep warm and I wondered if we were going to make it.  Laura sat there and prayed for Boulder, and we thought about loved ones at home.  At last, that first ray of light hit in the morning and we thawed for an hour enabling us to finish the last pitch to the summit.  Cable routes home.

Notes:

– Laura is amazing, to see her character in light of the situation and her view on what a blessing life is, and how quickly and how providentially that can be taken away and to be okay with that is humbling

– The Diamond is an amazing climb.

– If we had done the North Chimney’s we would have finished the climb.  The overhang dihedral slowed us down considerably.

– Having led and On sighted every pitch was a great feeling, but our minds were not in the game, and I didn’t move as fast as I could’ve, also hence the breakdown.

–  We had pulled off an October ascent of the Diamond.

Below: Sending Laura a message in a picture in one of my MBA classes, reflecting my then, current desires.

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