Tuesday, August 7

The Honeymoon is Over

I flew home early from Salt Lake because I got word from a good family friend Dan Gottas about an upcoming dry spell breaking into the typical rocky mountain rhythm of afternoon thunderstorms and rain. Dan (a Meteorologist at NOAA) had been giving us amazing beta on the weather for the last few weeks, and with already too many variables in play, I wanted to get the best day of weather possible for an attempt on the Honeymoon.

I rested hard on Saturday, trying my best to literally sit still, which came with ease after a whirlwind 24 hour trip to SLC. After a super lazy day my Dad and I packed up the gear and crawled in bed around 9, prepared to wake just a handful of hours later.

first light on the Diamond - during our first failed mission due to seepage.

With such a long day ahead of you, you can't really get wrapped up in the little things, but the morning went perfectly. We held a great pace all the way to Mills Glacier, cruised the North Chimney and I flaked the rope, first in line.

'The Honeymoon is Over' was originally an Aid route (VI- 5.10 A3+) and later was equipped with bolts for free climbing, largely in an effort by bad-ass Eric Doub in the mid 90s. Tommy Caldwell freed the rig in the summer of 2001, in an extremely impressive effort, calling it one of his hardest days out (still). It has not seen a repeat since. It begins with the first 2 pitches of the 'Casual Route' at 5.9 before taking the first 2 pitches of another Diamond test-piece 'Eroica' .11b and .11+. We made great time on the first three pitches, landing us at the 'ramp' just below the large, right-facing Dihedral that defines the first difficult pitch (in my mind) around 9 a.m. I had somehow managed to onsight this supposed .11c corner years ago when I climbed on Eroica, but it was not easy. Let's just say that for me, I considered this pitch to be easily as hard if not harder than some of the mid 5.12 terrain on the upper Honeymoon. The left side of the corner had been taking some water from above (much like it had when we were 'bouted on our first free attempt the previous week) except I was not willing to go down this time. The wetness proved to be manageable, and I fired the first hard pitch. My Dad switched into jugging mode and followed behind me. The next pitch starts the actual Honeymoon. It continues up the narrowing corner, traverses across a small face and surmounts a mini roof crack. Tommy estimated this pitch to be 13a, and despite a couple mini-trax visits, I could never get this thing to feel easier than pretty honest 13b. I made my way through the stemming, laybacks and crimps to a hanging belay below a shallow right facing dihedral. Stoked. I was climbing well, the sun was on my back, and we were making great time.

The crux pitch, 13c, begins with an ultra techy right-facing dihedral, with a few opportunities for fingers in the corner, but mostly I found myself grabbing the arete, shuffling feet up on dime edges and using body tension and position to weasel my way through it. It takes a couple small cams and thin wires. After this 50 foot section you fire through some juggy flakes with a 12+ cruxy bit, fire in a few medium cams and then bust left across a blank face for a huge span-crimp-mantle move that was just barely within my reach. The holds here are shockingly bad, but the feet are good. It's uniquely powerful and delicate. A bolt protects this move but I decided to skip it to save my momentum. Thankfully I fired it. Very, very stoked because a fall on this pitch, especially up high, could be bad news.

The next pitch (13a) starts with a harder section, then rides a flake for 30 feet before blankness. An 11 move, bolt protected boulder problem suddenly slows you down. It's a powerful, crimpy section of climbing, and reachy as well. Afterwards, a couple well-spaced bolts take you through relatively mellow (.12a/b?) terrain to an anchor above Table Ledge. At this point, after doing every pitch first try, I was very optimistic. It was a splitter day, we had plenty of time ahead, and I was climbing just as I needed to - confident and efficiently. I could definitely feel fatigue setting in, having climbed 7 pitches above 13,000 feet and three 5.13 pitches above 13,500. 'It's a whole different game up here' I kept saying to myself as I trained and sussed the Honeymoon in the previous weeks. Recovery is dramatically inhibited, and every action seemingly takes 10x more energy, but regardless, at this point I was sitting right where I wanted to.

I took off above Table Ledge for the final 13a pitch. It's defined by a left-facing flake that, at 1/3 height, tappers off briefly and produces a short, but super tenuous, footwork intensive crux. After pulling through this crux, I immediately felt some deeper fatigue set in. I rested as well as I could in the undercling flake, before turning the corner, punching in a couple TCUs and pushing for the last moves in the pitch. At the top of the pitch lies an awkward foot match and off balance rock-over move. At this point I was gunning for the anchor, I skipped a bolt and I fumbled my feet, I second guessed the move and just went for it.................. lots of air. With a crowd of climbers watching, I took a pretty massive whipper off the top of the last hard pitch. Normally I'm pretty well put together, but being this tired, and running into this kind of setback this high on the route- I kinda lost it. A mini wobbler ensued.

very tired.
a comfy belay ledge
My Dad lowered me to the belay, and I tried to gather myself. I felt like I could puke, and then fall asleep in my harness. At this point we were nearing 14,000 feet and I was not certain as to whether or not I would have the energy to repeat this entire pitch. I rested and rested. Shoved some food down my throat despite our lack of water and my complete lack of hunger. Deep breaths, I pulled the rope and tied in. I set off. Recovering at every possible stop, I was breathing heavily from the beginning. Edging my way through the first crux I rested where I could afterwards. I paced myself as well as I could, moving through sections and smearing my feet trying to convince myself that this was the first pitch of the day. As I neared the top I clipped that bolt I skipped before, and nailed the last hard move. I was very excited. Just one pitch of mid .12 was between me and the very top of the Diamond.

The last pitch was wet, but I knew there were many places for me to rest, so I took it slow and diligently wiped my feet off on my pant legs. As I pulled through the upper, finishing crux with damp hands and feet, I could see the top and I could see the end of this burly day. When I clipped the 3 bolt anchor I let out a cry of relief and excitement - repeating this route had been a dream of mine for 5 years. It was an emotional finish for me and it was a day that I will remember forever. So much effort, thought, planning, stress and excitement went into this route -- which made the send that much more satisfying.

My Dad really busted his ass on Sunday (and the previous weeks for that matter) to help me accomplish this goal, and it really meant a lot to me to see him jug over the lip of the Diamond, smile wide and proclaim, 'I love this shit!' He's been an integral part of my climbing life and many of my biggest victories. I'm really happy that he was there to share one of my best days -- Thanks Dad.