Another long overdue blog post!
Last week, my friend, Sam, and I set out to climb the world famous Diamond on Longs Peak. These two days were my only scheduled days off this summer, so I figured I would make the most out of them.
The Diamond is the east face of Longs Peak; it starts at 13,000 feet and ens just over 14,000 feet. Seeing as this was our first Diamond trip, we chose to do the "Casual Route." Rated 5.10a, this is the easiest and most popular route on the Diamond.
Our trip went a little something like this:
We arrived at the Longs Peak trail head around 10 AM. We spent about a half hour picking up bivy permits, arranging back packs, and waiting for a parking spot.
We started hiking at 10:30 and took our time hiking up. As we passed some returning climbers, we stopped briefly to chat and to ask about current conditions. When we mentioned our plans to bivy on Broadway Ledge, they responded with, "Oh, that's a nightmare." We were only a half hour in, and our trip was off to an optimistic start. Despite our slow pace, we seemed to pass countless hiking parties on the way up and reached Chasm Lake in good time.
ABOVE: My first glimpse of the Diamond. BELOW: Surprisingly stunning scenery on the hike up.
As we crossed the boulder field, we stopped to fill up water at Chasm Lake. When we tried to sterilize our water, we found out that the battery had died in Sam's SteriPEN. When we tried to replace the battery, the spring loaded battery cap went flying into the lake. Long story short, we were able to track down the cap thanks to the crystal clear high alpine water, and Sam went on a successful (and cold) recovery swim. After our 30 minute water/swim stop, we were back on our way and headed towards the North Chimney.
ABOVE: Sam and his swimming hole. BELOW: The boulder field leading to the North Chimney
The North Chimney:
With our leisurely pace and extended water/swim stop, it ended up taking us almost 4 hours to reach the base of the North Chimney. The North Chimney is 600 feet of 5.4 that leads to the Broadway Ledge where we would be staying the night. As we were gearing up at the bottom, we heard this bizarre humming noise that kept getting louder and louder and louder until we heard a "THWACK." The sound had come from a softball-size rock that landed 30 feet to our right in the snowfield. We looked at each other, said nothing, and promptly put our helmets on. Because we were both carrying large backpacks, we decided to pitch out the North Chimney. We soon found out that the North Chimney was a death trap of loose blocks and wet rock. Every rock we touched seemed to move and I couldn't get out of there fast enough.
Sam working his way up the north chimney
The Bitch'n Broadway Traverse
You won't find the Bitch'n Broadway Traverse in any guidebook and for good reason. In my hurry to be done with the North Chimney, I somehow managed to climb past Broadway Ledge and missed the ledge all together. When I finally ran out of rope and set up a belay, I looked down and realized that I had climbed 75 feet past Broadway. How I missed a ledge of that size, I have no idea. Nonetheless after dropping his pack off on Broadway, Sam followed up to the belay and we set off on the now infamous Bitch'n Broadway Traverse. The BBT is a scenic 50' traverse that takes one from the no man's land above the North Chimney to just below the half way point of Pitch 1 of the "Casual Route." It will surely be a classic someday.
ABOVE: The "How the hell did I miss Broadway?" face. BELOW: Sam leading the BBT
After the BBT, we were finally able to rappel back down to Broadway Ledge and check out our digs for the night. After a long day of hiking, swimming, climbing, and getting lost, we were both extremely hungry and just happy to be there. It turns out the Broadway bivy cave isn't so much a cave as it is 2 feet of overhanging rock. Either way, we were just happy to be there and to finally eat dinner. At 13,100 feet, the view was pretty hard to beat.
Sam at the Broadway bivy cave
Enjoying the view
A Night on Broadway
Spending the night on Broadway was one of the those things that I am glad to have experienced, and that I hope I never have to experience again. Between the altitude, critters, falling rocks, and the moon that was brighter than the sun, it was anything but a good night's sleep. Every 20 minutes or so, we would hear the distinct humming noise of a falling rock that would either go whizzing by on its way down to the boulder field or explode upon impact on the Broadway Ledge. These were not big rocks by any means, but they didn't exactly lull you to sleep. In between the rocks, we could hear the pikas and other rodents scurrying around the rocks. I managed to fall asleep for maybe an hour or so only to be woken up by what I thought was the sunrise. It turns out it was just the moon, but it was so bright you almost needed sunglasses to look at it. I was finally able to get a couple hours of sleep only be woken by Sam who was pointing out the trail of headlamps headed our way from all of the parties getting alpine starts. We quickly realized that we would not be alone, and around 4:30 AM we started getting ready and then waited for the sunrise.
The sunlight was finally coming through the haze and with our overnight stay on Broadway, we were the first party on the route. Because of a practically perfect weather report, there ended up being 7 other parties on the wall that day, with two of them behind us on the "Casual Route."
ABOVE: Me Tying in a the base of the first pitch, Sunrise over chasm lake. BELOW: Sam following the first pitch.
Sam leading the second pitch
Belaying at the top of the third pitch.
Sam finishing the third pitch
Sam coming up to the Yellow Wall Bivy Ledge with a whole lot of air underneath.
Looking down the 5th pitch above the squeeze chimney just below the crux.
looking down from the top the fifth pitch, and wondering why I even bothered to tape my hands.
Looking towards Chasm View from the top of P5
Sam working through the Squeeze Chimney at 14,000 ft
Sam leading the AIRY sixth pitch traverse
The descent was long to say the least. We opted to take the D7 Rappels back to Broadway in order to gather our stuff. The raps were straight forward until I managed to miss the third rap station. Luckily, I was not the first to have made this mistake seeing as I ended up at a lovely little rat's nest exactly one rope length from the last station. Sam found them right away, and after a minor detour, we were back on track.
Everything went great until the last rap. We both made it back the Broadway Ledge, but when we went to pull our rope, the end of the rope snagged on a little horn 50 feet above Broadway. We spent over an hour trying to flick, loop, and finesse the rope off the horn. We eventually resorted to brute force and set up a quick 5:1 haul system, yet amazingly we could still not get the rope to budge. It was then we decided to cut our losses and cut the rope. We scrambled up 30 feet and managed to cut the rope without losing more than 5 meters, which was lucky because we still needed that rope to get us down the remaining 4 rappels in order to reach the ground. After grabbing our bags and a quick snack, we did the last 4 raps and we were back in the boulder field.
By this time it was getting late, we were both tired and hungry, and we still had a 5-mile hike back to the car. Sam took the lead on the way down and with pure determination, we practically ran all the way back to the car. What took us 3 hours and 30 minutes up only took us 2 hours and 15 minutes down. We mercifully reached the car and were finally on our way home. We made a quick stop for gas and Cosmo's Pizza, and we finally arrived back in town around 1 AM on Thursday. I was in bed by 2 AM, and then up at 8 AM to go back to work as usual.
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A collection of stories and adventures from the FAMS director and instructors.