Long's Peak, Casual Route
By: Theresa Ho | Climbers: Theresa Ho, Tom Lambert |Trip Dates: August 16, 2000
Photo: Tom Dunwiddie
(and living to tell about it)
I just can't wear rings, so when the question arose, I opted for an engagement down sleeping bag and bivy sack instead. I've never regretted it. I still think "Damn, I love this bag," every single time I crawl inside. Still, they say that diamonds are a girl's best friend, so when some friends announced their wedding plans for Boulder, CO just a few days before our second wedding anniversary, things seemed to be working out very poetically. We could nab a really big Diamond in celebration.
We'd done a bunch of really long days in the Valley this season, but as Tom likes to say, we're more tortoises than hares. We aren't that speedy, but we can just keep going. I wasn't sure about the value of this trait for a committing face like the Diamond, but it's what I had to work with. As it turned out, we managed to do the Casual Route safely, but it was a close thing. I feel like I made a couple of risky (one might even say dumb) decisions and narrowly managed to get away with it. The following are my tips for how you could do the same. As for diamonds, a girl's best friend is an excellent partner, which I have. Diamonds are just accessories after all.
How to successfully bumble up the Diamond:
1. Ignore the forecast, and rely on a knowledgeable local to clue you in to weather patterns. Sierra weather tends to be relatively stable in the summer. So much so, that Tom and I had gotten used to just setting a date for a climb and assuming that the weather would cooperate. We'd planned to hike in to Chasm View on Thursday and climb Friday in order to give ourselves the most time in CO to acclimate without running into weekend crowds. After a phone call to John Byrnes and some info on the tropical depression likely to shoot moisture into the area around the end of the week, we decided to head in on Tuesday (our second anniversary) instead.
2. Hang out with friends until late so that you can't find Chasm View in the dark. OK, we didn't look all that hard because the bivy sites at the Boulder Field looked very inviting and it was already past my bedtime when we got there. It was a good place to stop. It rained that night (first time in my engagement bivy bag) and the bivies at the BF looked much cozier than the ones we saw at Chasm View the next morning.
3. Start late. Hike slowly. Get lost. Finally find the chains at Chasm View for the rap into Broadway. Thank God the rangers at the permit office had photos of the rap station. The split block is pretty distinctive if you know what you're looking for, but the bolts/chains are only visible if you lean out over the abyss in just the right place.
4. Do the calculations. Realize that the chances for getting off before noon are practically nil, and decide to go for it anyway
5. Ignore the (good) advice to leave gear at Chasm View where you can pick it up after rapping the Cables Route. Set off with an abominably heavy pack filled with lots of water, shoes, and more food than you'll have the time to eat on the route instead. We were already wearing all the clothing that we'd brought with us.
6. Barely beat out another party for the Casual Route, forcing them to head out for Pervertical Sanctuary instead. This will be important later, you'll see.
7. Climb like banshees, puffing all the way. We'd figured that the technical difficulty would be the least of our concerns, and were basically correct. Mostly we were racing the incoming weather. The toughest pitch for me was seconding the long 5.8 on pitch 5, trying to climb quickly and gasping for air while sobbing over the necessity to lieback with the weight of all weights on my back pulling me down. Tom is a saint for hauling the pack up on the 5.9 squeeze pitch. Without that beast on my back, I didn't even notice the supposed crux 10a move.
8. Arrive at Table Ledge to the menacing rumbles of thunder, and begin wandering up Kienner's. Our thin Rossiter's guidebook had a lousy description of this part of the route and we got confused at the 'staircase'. That's when it started to snow.
9. Cleverly cower under an overhanging rock until the Pervertical guys happen by to show us the quickest descent. As we move up the staircase onto the ridge/buttress my hair starts to buzz softly. It's time to get down. The Pervertical guys compliment us on moving efficiently on the Casual Route, which, given the circumstances, seems pretty ironic to me. Nevertheless, the raps are uneventful, and the weather even lets up a little as we gather up our stuff at the Boulder Field.
10. Meditate on how lucky we were on the hike out as the sky lets loose with a torrent of water, the mountain disappears behind dark clouds, and the valleys echo with the sound of thunder.