Friday, October 4, 2019

Tips to Prepare for The Casual Route on the Diamond

The Diamond of Longs Peak is one of the most recognized alpine walls in the World. While relatively not the highest or the longest wall- it's close proximity to major cities and high quality route-offerings makes the Diamond an undisputed classic. The Casual Route will be many people's first route, here are some tips for preparation. Disclaimer: As always, these are tips and does not replace requisite experience and/or guidance.

A climber on the final traverse pitch of the Casual Route

1) Rock Climb!
First and foremost, the Diamond is a rock climb (as long as you choose to climb it in the summer season) so getting comfortable as a 5.10 trad leader is paramount. Route link-ups like Handcracker Direct to Yellow Spur, in Eldorado Canyon, make great preparation climbs. For both the leader and follower it is recommended to be able to climb 5.10 consistently without hanging on the rope (sport climbing doesn't hurt, but trad climbs are where the mileage should be spent).

A climber on a 5.10 route in Eldorado Canyon

2) Mileage in RMNP 
Rocky Mountain National Park is the veritable climber's playground in the US. Climbing a "classics" progression will not only prepare one for the Diamond, it'll be super fun! One example of many progression potentials might be: South Face, Petit Grepon (III, 5.8) to Culp-Bossier (III, 5.8+) to Flying Buttress, Flying Buttress (III, 5.9+/5.10) to The Barb (III, 5.10). Regardless of the specific routes in RMNP used for preparation, aim for a minimum of three grade III climbs on alpine rock (preferably in RMNP) with atleast one of them reaching 5.10 in difficulty.

Two climbers on the North face of Hallett Peak
3) Train Specifically
Train specifically for the objective you're teeing up for. Uphill Athlete has some fantastic options to train for rock alpinism- these will likely be helpful for anyone aspiring to climb the Casual Route.

4) Do Your Homework
There are dozens of resources for Casual Route descriptions, gather multiple descriptions and learn the route well beforehand (this includes the North Chimney approach to the Diamond-if that is the chosen approach of the party). Staying on-route is critical both for efficiency and safety, and for the North Chimney getting off-route could mean putting other parties below you at risk (due to rock fall).

A climber ascends the North Chimney- a common place to get off-route
5) Acclimatize
The classic tip! The crux of the Casual Route is at the very top (at 14,000 feet) so spending some time at upper elevations in the Rockies before your climb will dramatically improve how you feel on the Diamond.

A climber on the crux pitch of the Casual Route

6) Learn and Practice Self Rescue
Large alpine climbs are committing, and you and your partner both should be competent with key concepts to perform a self-rescue, mountain rescue in the US can be hours to days away depending on where and when you are.

The Diamond in the early-season rock conditions of June 

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