Sunday, July 02, 2017

Diamond Recon w/Derek

Derek high in the North Chimney

With our success on El Cap behind us, Derek and I turn our attention to the Diamond. We still haven't done our training climbs in Eldo and we'd heard that the Casual Route still had snow on it, so we were not planning on it today. We tried to go light and I pared the rack down enough where the Diamond was out of the question. My plan was to just climb up the North Chimney to get Derek familiar with it, just like I did with Mark Oveson when we were training for the Diamond. And, just like with Mark, our plan was to then traversed hard right on the Chasm Wall Traverse.

My last experience with the North Chimney was horrible and life threatening as a horde of imbeciles were bombing rocks down by climbing the chimney in the wrong place, doing it carelessly, and not yelling "Rock!". So, we got a late start, on purpose, hoping to avoid any repeat of that danger. We left home at the decidedly non-alpine-start time of 5 a.m. I was surprised that there were at least 5 or 6 spots still available in the parking lot, despite the great weather. We were hiking by 6:10 a.m.
Hiking across Chasm Lake
We moved efficiently up to Chasm Lake where I was stunned that we could walk across it. In July! Granted, not across the middle, but along the north side. On the far side of the lake, at the bivy locations just above there we ran into Michael, the writer who wrote the piece on Minions for the Boulder Weekly. He and his partner has climbed Pervertical Sanctuary the day before. They bivied before the climb and after the climb and would be hiking out that morning. Another party of two was just ahead of us. They had also climbed PV the day before and were now headed for the Casual Route. Back to back Diamond days. Impressive.

We caught Andrew and Becca just below the start of the North Chimney, as they were gearing up in the snow before things got too steep. Derek and I were already in our Microspikes, which we put on just above the bivy locations. Becca and Andrew also wore Microspikes. As we approached this pair, they were very friendly and asked what route we were heading for. Our route was complicated, so I just said, "Not the Diamond."

We geared faster than they did and I moved up to the rock first. I stopped on a small ledge just ten feet up the rock to switch from our running shoes with Microspikes into our rock shoes. Andrew was right behind us, but I moved off into the lead and ran out two hundred feet of rope before they were ready to move. When I ran out of rope Derek started climbing and we simul-climbed up to the start of the crux near the top. I stopped there to regear and give Derek a break from simul-climbing, though he didn't seem to need it.

I finished things off to Broadway and immediately moved up and right a bit to belay. Andrew hit Broadway and he moved left towards the Casual Route. They simul-climbed the entire Chimney as one pitch. We'll do that as well when we climb the Diamond. I climbed super carefully, making sure I didn't dislodge anything. Despite this care I did dislodge a small rock, smaller than a golf ball, but still yelled "Rock" with gusto. They called up "No problem. All good." Derek was super careful as well.
Traversing Broadway
From Chasm Lake, we had scoped the traverse to the right and it looked a bit dicey due to the snow on Broadway. For a moment I almost abandoned the climb, fearful of an unprotected traverse just below the snow and on the very edge of the huge lower wall. The first four hundred feet of this traverse are a bit unnerving. It isn't a rock climbing, but traverse across steep, loose slope with no chance for any gear. I moved like on egg shells. If anything slid I felt there was a chance I'd go with it. I might have been fine walking across at a faster pace, but if I was wrong, we both could have died. Hence, I went very carefully and it was fine, though definitely stressful.
Airy traversing
Once across that section and on the more narrow ledge for the rest of the traverse, the rock was more sound, though still loose, but most importantly, I could place gear. We regrouped when I finally got in some solid gear. I then led another 300 feet or more, around a very exposed section, to a belay at the top of the Red Wall route. I'd climbed that route with Mark Oveson as well and knew this belay. At this point most of the climbing we'd done was nerve wracking  third class, with a few low 5th class sections, including a couple of short down climbs. The last pitch is the crux and is rated 5.8, though that seems generous. There are two or three fixed pins on this pitch and the climbing finally turns up, though only for about 25 feet before it does a final traverse, this time on small, positive edges. This last pitch is really the only pitch on the traverse that feels like real rock climbing. The exposure is tremendous and the climbing is really fun.
Hanging snow blob on the Casual Route
The route ends atop Chasm View Wall and a few hundred feet before the start of the North Face crux pitch. We took a break here to eat, drink, and pack up most of our gear. We left out three cams and three slings for the North Face. While we rested a climber came down from above us. He was in there with other friends to climb the Diamond and Directissima over the next two days.
Derek doing the last of the heel hooks on the Heel Hook Traverse at the end of the route.
We headed up to the base of the North Face, as high as we could get on rock and then stopped to put on our Microspikes. We didn't bring ice axes but it was okay, as the snow was pretty soft and we could kick reasonable steps and then join other tracks. We left our packs here and Derek led up the snow and directly into the technical pitch which was soaked and running with water, but had no ice. Derek cruised up it very quickly, slinging the eye bolts and placing one cam near the top. He belayed me up and we left the rope and gear there, continuing up the snowfield above with our Microspikes once again.
Lots of air at the top of the Chasm View Wall
Just above here we met a guide and his client descending. They'd climbed Kiener's Route and asked us about conditions below. We'd see them again. Once past the snowfield, we took off our Microspikes once again and continued to the summit. Here we found three other climbers who had climbed the North Face as well. They all seemed to be from Wisconsin and were super friendly and very excited to be on top of Longs Peak. They had just got to Colorado the day before, so we were properly impressed with their rapid acclimatization.
Derek leading up the soaked North Face
Derek and I only stayed long enough to take their photo and have our photo taken. We stayed probably only three minutes before descending. When we arrived at the rappels we found the guide and his client down at the eye bolt fifty feet down. The guide was lowering his client. Previously he was short-roping him on the snowfields. We set up our rope and rappelled down to the end of it, which didn't quite reach and just downclimbed the last twenty feet. Derek would stop at the station fifty feet down, now cleared by the guide.
On top of Longs. Derek's eighth ascent and my 78th
Once on the snow and our rope coiled, we easily caught the guide and his client, who was having some serious confidence issues in the steep snow. The guide was trying to get him to plunge step on the way down without much luck. The skies had clouded over and the wind picked up. It gave us some incentive to get moving. Our hands were really cold from plunging them in the snow and our gloves were soaked. But everything changed just about fifteen minutes later when the brewing storm blew itself out. Dark clouds still hung over Longs Peak, but no real precipitation fell.

We cruised on down to the parking lot with Derek leading the way and scampering over the boulders at a speed I could not match. We got back down after 8h38m adding yet another data point to the answer of the question: How long does it take to climb Longs Peak? Answer: Eight and half hours.
Derek and his next objective

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Flying Buttress With Tom

Tom and Charlie are headed up to Canada to climb the Lotus Flower Tower next month and Tom wanted to get on some alpine granite in preparation. I suggested this route as I'd only done it once before, more than a decade ago with Mark Oveson. I didn't remember much about it, except the very cool roof pitch.

The high in Boulder was only going to be 70 degrees so we figured it would be plenty cold at 12,000 feet in the early morning so Tom suggested we meet in north Boulder at the ridiculously late time of 6 a.m. It felt wrong driving to meet while it was already light enough to climb. This would set the tone for entire day. We never hurried, moving at a casual, conversational pace the entire time. We had great weather nearly the entire day and I enjoyed the relaxed pace.

I was a bit surprised that the Longs Peak parking lot was full, but we had to park less than a 100 feet outside of it. We were hiking just before 7 a.m. We took the lower two shortcuts but stuck to the trail above that. It was warmer than I expected right from the start and we were soon sweating despite the slow pace. We wore just running shoes for the approach, but carried Microspikes and ice axes.

Near the base of the route we could see that axes would be required for the descent and decided to take one pack up the route. We left my pack down in the talus, put on our Microspikes and used our axes to follow a boot track up the lower reaches of the Dreamweaver couloir, which hugs the right side of the Flying Buttress. We'd descend the couloir on the left side.

As we geared up in the talus we could see a rope way up on the second pitch, but couldn't see any climbers. Later, as we scrambled up the lower part of the rib we'd start to hear them. Soon enough we spotted them and then would catch them.

The start of this route is a bit confusing and Tom took some time to sort it out and make sure we were on route. He broke the first pitch into two pitches, but remained in the lead because he really wanted to lead the roof pitch. The first pitch had some 5.9 climbing on it and it felt pretty slick and insecure for one ten-foot section. Each of our pitches ended on big, flat ledges with the exception of the roof pitch.

The second pitch is the 10a crux pitch and I stuck directly to the prow, which required some heady, insecure moves well above a tiny cam. It took me awhile to work out just the right way to do it and I was aware that an option existed further right, in the shaded north side, but I resisted and we climbed this route entirely in the sun.
The flare above Tom is where he's headed. The crux of the pitch is getting into that flare.
Above that crux section there is another steep, very thin 5.9 section, but it's short. Most of the climbing on this route felt bouldery, with short cruxes separated by more moderate climbing. This pitch also wandered around a bit and ended with a pretty spectacular traverse. As I finished climbing this pitch and then belayed Tom up, I was watching the shenanigans above me. Rae was dangling from the rope on the intimidating 5.9+ roof and their pack was dangling as well. There was all sorts to yelling and grunting and frustration as the two struggled to get Rae and the pack over the roof. Her partner, August, belayed just above in order to help as much as possible and haul the pack and apparently made a mess of the ropes. When Tom arrived at the belay we waited for maybe ten more minutes to give them a chance to move on up the next pitch.

Tom led the roof easily and belayed just above in case I had some trouble following with the pack on. I found the 5.8 climbing approaching the roof to be non-trivial, but I was able to turn the roof without incident. The holds on this roof are huge. It looks like you'll have to fist jam the wide crack but I used giant jugs to get over the lip quickly before my arms gave out.
Tom headed to the awesome roof on pitch 3 (four for us)
I led up the next long pitch, right on the prow of the buttress, doing a 5.9+ boulder problem along the way. This problem could easily be avoided by traversing on ledgy terrain on the north side, but I wanted to avoid the shade and like the aesthetics of staying directly on the prow. I belayed on a completely flat section of the ridge, in the sun, while Rae was belaying just fifteen feet from me on a tiny stance in the shade. She wore a puffy down jacket and a heavy layer underneath that. She looked cold. I was warm. She looked like me climbing with Homie, while I looked like Homie. It was nice to be the warm one for once.
This is the last pitch, which looks like a tough #3 Camalot-pitch, but hidden footholds make the climbing 5.8.
Tom followed and we waited at least twenty minutes for them to finish climbing the final pitch, a nice 5.8 hand/fist crack with many footholds that are hidden from you from the bottom of the pitch. Tom led easily and I had fun following. I then dragged the rope up the next section but Tom unroped halfway along this part. We coiled the rope and stowed the gear and scrambled carefully over to the north face of Meeker and then carefully down until we could get into the couloir, where we found soft snow and heel plunged for a bit and then glissaded back to my pack at the base. The hike out was routine. What a great day.

Descending from the summit of the Flying Buttress