A note from the Management:
On any given night at Movement climbing gym in Boulder, CO, I am outclimbed by by several people half my age…and I’m only 29. But that does not bother me because, “I climb harder in the mountains, man!” Yep, that 12 year old climbing his age being belayed by his dad would shit his little superman underpants “up there.”
“The roof on the yellow route (I, 5.11c, 20m) is a little tough,” says the 12 year old.
“Yah, I know dude, thanks for the beta.” I wanted to say something like, “dude, I climbed the West Face of The Dragon’s Spine when you were in 3rd grade!”
Young climbers—25 and younger—have always dominated the sport climbing and bouldering game, while alpinism’s envelope normally gets pushed by more seasoned mountaineers.
In the Young Guns Series we will highlight trip reports by people 25 and under who are crushing it in the mountains. These are some inspirational tales, and a reminder that the kid cruising the 5.13 in the gym might also be thinking that you’d shit your pants if you attempted what he did over summer break.
Winter Ascent, D7, The Diamond, Rocky Mountain NP, Colorado
By Colin Simon
The Diamond in Winter is an objective that has clawed at my ambition since I moved to Colorado. The more I learned about it, I discovered it wasn’t a highly technical, herculean task, but a test of my ability to suffer in a cold, exposed environment. My ego drew me further to it as a recognizable achievement.
A successful ascent of Nose in a Day in June 2010 gave me the confidence in speed-aiding needed to try it. In January of 2011 Will Gordon and I got as far as Broadway ledge below D7, but arrived at the late hour of 11:00am and decided to bail. We were in poor approaching shape, had no recent altitude experience, and brought a couple too many items.
Right as we had a balmy weather forecast, my buddy Cheyne bailed to go climb Fitz Roy and other silly little mountains. I quickly recruited Kirill Langer. I enjoy climbing with Kirill because he has a distinct do-not-give-in attitude. He tends not to bail for stupid reasons (e.g. being uncomfortable).
We did a little preparation by acclimatizing and sharpening our aid systems, and headed to Long’s Peak. While suiting up in the parking lot around 2:30 am, and I realized I left my baselayer pants in Boulder. I put on a pair of Levi’s under my shell pants and we left the parking lot. Attempts to save weight included bringing an iPhone instead of a real camera.
Many climbers envision the North Chimney as a terribly dangerous horrorshow in winter. It’s definitely harder in winter, but I didn’t find it that unreasonable. It had spots of M3-4 separated by long easy sections. Packed snow covers many of the loose sections, making them safer.
We finished the North Chimney, charged across Broadway to the Yellow Wall “bivy cave,” ate some food and looked at the watch.
“It’s 11:00am,” I said to Kirill. In nearly the same circumstances last year, we bailed.
“I don’t want to bail.”
“Neither do I.”
As I mixed climbed the easy 5th class ramp to the base of D7, I pondered where on the mountain we would be when darkness fell. I began the 6-pitch wrestling match with my aid ladders, and Kirill began his six pitches of shivering at belays. D7 is a splitter route that can be aided quickly – I short-fixed every pitch, self-belaying by feeding a clove hitch. I was able to do the second pitch gloveless, but after that the temperature continually dropped.
As I started the last pitch, darkness fell and the temperature plummeted. By headlamp, I awkwardly aided and groveled my way through the last wide crack section, and hopped onto Almost Table Ledge. A scary mantel into snow put us on Table Ledge proper. We coiled the rope and slogged up the Staircase to the summit. We snapped a couple pictures and marveled at the lights of the Front Range on the clear night. After slowly finding the Cables rappels, we began the horrible slog back to the parking lot. I hallucinated my way through the talus, constantly imagining warm mountain huts in the snowy boulder fields. Eventually the parking lot appeared, and we plopped down to sleep in the car after our 22-hour day.
-Good weather. I discovered that noaa.gov provides inaccurate data with wind around Longs.
-Short-fixing or other speed-aiding experience. Pitching the route out is unacceptably slow.
-Ability to climb moderate mixed (M3-M4) quickly
Some gear we used:
-A set of nuts
-Doubles from purple Metolius to #2 Camalot, and singles for #3 and 4 Camalots.
-4 quickdraws and 4 extendable slings. We backcleaned a lot, but D7 is pretty straightforward, allowing for less extending.
-One ice tool per person. The North Chimney isn’t so hard that two tools are needed.
-One 60m rope. Bailing down the North Chimney with one rope is easy. Don’t bail after that.
-No ice screws; there wasn’t much ice in the North Chimney. Spring ascents may have ice.
-We took one pack. Kirill wore it, and I approached while wearing the rack, rope, and my harness. Allowed leading without a pack.
-I wore gloves thinner than I do while ice climbing. Aiding quickly involves supreme dexterity. I managed to climb pitch 2 without gloves and only slight discomfort, helping our time.
Colin Simon is a recent graduate of CU Boulder and former president of the CU Alpine Club. When he’s not crushing in the mountains, Colin searches for employment and climbs 5.12+ at the gym.