Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Diamond

Sunday, Andre and I headed up to the Diamond. I'm still sore, and even feel a bit sick. We left at 1:30 am, and started the hike at 3:00. It was a neat hike at night. The sky was clear. The stars were bright, and at spots we could see the city lights of the Frontrange. We got to Chasm Lake before sunrise, just as the sky began to brighten. I'd never been around Chasm Lake before, and I was surprised by how much talus we had to cross to get to the base of the Diamond. At the base I felt dizzy, and had a slight headache. I had a bit of altitude sickness, but I didn't realize it at the time. I thought I was simply tired from the hike, and out of breath from the altitude. The North Chimney was completely clear of snow. It looked low angle and easy, so we started up unroped. It got steeper, and the rock was much worse than I had expected. We didn't solo much before we decided to rope up. The chimney was full of dirt, and sliding rock. The flakes on the side of it are loose, and once I grabbed the top of a ledge and a huge section of it rocked out towards me. We ended up doing 3 roped pitches to get to Broadway ledge, and it took us a lot longer than expected. The clock on my phone didn't work because it couldn't connect, but I estimate that it was 11:00 am when we got there.

We took a short hydration break on the ledge. I was feeling a bit sick, and was upset at how bad the North Chimney had been. There were a lot of protection options, but the route felt like 5.5 X because falling rock could easily kill you in there. While setting up a belay, Andre knocked down a rock that hit my helmet pretty hard. I was lucky I hadn't been looking up. Truthfully, I wasn't that psyched to climb anymore, but the weather was good. Andre was into it, and we had done so much work to get there that I decided to go for it. Andre lead the first 5.6 pitch very quickly. I took the sharp end for pitch two and headed up the 5.9 finger crack to slings. My topo said "climb to the slings, then climb left across the flake traverse." It warned not to traverse too low or you would end up doing poorly protected 5.10 moves. I saw what appeared to be a good line of flakes. I looked below it and thought "Yeah, you wouldn't want to traverse out there." I started to traverse looking for the fixed pins that are supposed to protect the traverse. I kept traversing farther. Putting in very marginal gear as I went, I kept thinking that a fixed pin must be around the next little corner of rock. I was fifty feet out sideways with four bad nuts placed before I realized I was off route. I had traversed too early. I climbed left 5 more feet to a flake and tried twice to fit a #2 cam behind it, but it wouldn't fit deep enough. I needed a .75, but I had used it already on the crack below. It took many nervous minutes, but I managed to get three nuts behind the flake and then clip into the anchor. The possibility of taking a huge gear popping pedulum, and getting seriously injured, without a working phone, where rescue would cost over ten thousand dollars in helicopter fees, left me very nervous. Andre followed the pitch to the sling anchor in the crack, and belayed me back across the traverse. It was now probably 2:00 pm, and we could see many small storms to the east.

It was only a matter of time before the storms would hit us. We were behind schedule to reach the top with light for the descent, and I was still scared from my off route epic. I told Andre it was time to retreat.

It took six double rope rappels to get back to the base. On the way down, we got hit by some hail, but luckily it stopped quickly. The hike out seemed much longer than the hike in, even though it was downhill. It rained heavily for a little bit, and I was very happy that we were off the Diamond. We got back to the car at 8:00 pm.

Andre is still psyched to climb the Diamond, but I'm not planning to go back. I've checked it out, and for me the planning, work, commitment, and dangerous loose rock in the North Chimney outweigh the benefits. It's a cool environment. The Diamond above Broadway has great rock, but it is hard to enjoy it when you need to climb as fast as possible to beat the storms. I can climb pitches that are of similar quality elsewhere, and have more fun, with much less stress. I understand the Diamond's appeal. I felt it's pull for years, but I don't anymore. I learned a lot on the Diamond, and I think I'll go back to bouldering for a while.


sock hands said...

great no-BS recap, dave.

this is why i non-humbly suggest to trad climbers that bouldering is a much more pure form of climbing since your mind is always focused on how to move over the rock; not about approaching storms or how quickly you need to hike AND climb to 'stay on schedule'*

*note: this second part is not true when on bouldering road trips. you MUST send on schedule in order to send at least 65% of the ticklist for that trip, or you must kill your friends before killing yourself in dishonor.

chuffer said...

Seriously, good stuff. Sounds like it got a bit sketchy, but not too bad.

I enjoyed the big trad lines I did over the years, but bouldering is where it's at for me ... leave the house at 6:30 AM, climb 'til dark. By spending the day trying a mix of undone projects, long-time personal projects, problems on the year's ticklist and fun moderates and highballs I haven't done before, I keep it fresh.

Keep having fun and challenge yourself again when your feeling it. If not, I'll see at the boulders.