Conditions must have been pretty good on the Diamond of Longs Peak (the mountain’s Arapahoe name is Neniisotoyou’u, 14,255′) on August 9, because two 5.13 routes were completed that day on the high alpine wall, which sits entirely above 13,000 feet.
Chris Weidner sent Gambler’s Fallacy (V 5.13b, 9 pitches) with Bruce Miller in support after the partners had spent a total of 51 days on the wall since they started the project in July 2017. The new climb mostly follows an old aid route, Enos Mills Wall (some pitches of which have previously been free climbed, dating back to 1980), but Gambler’s Fallacy finishes near the apex of the Diamond with two pitches of 5.13a and 5.12d on new terrain. At the time of this writing, Miller was preparing for his redpoint attempt with Weidner supporting.
Meanwhile, on the same day as Weidner’s send, Phil Gruber and Josh Wharton completed a new 5.13- linkup that they named Beethoven’s Honeymoon (IV 5.13-, 9 pitches). It begins on the ultra-classic Eroica (V 5.12b, 7 pitches) and segues into the Honeymoon is Over (V+ 5.13c, 9 pitches).
Wharton wrote on Mountain Project that Beethoven’s Honeymoon only adds about 80 feet of new terrain, but “this is a fantastic route, and probably the most accessible 5.13 on the Diamond…. It should become deservedly popular for people [who are] looking to up the ante from Diamond 5.12s…. The nature of the climbing, with short-lived, well-protected cruxes, makes it an excellent candidate for no rehearsal, ground up efforts.”
Weidner said of being on the wall at the same time as Wharton and Gruber, “We were cheering each other on, it was really fun.”
The Diamond sits between 13,000 and 14,000 feet. Accessing the wall involves a rugged hike of roughly 4.5 to 6 miles, depending on which route is taken, and either hundreds of feet of scrambling up the loose gully of the North Chimney to Broadway Ledge, or about 500 feet of rappels from Chasm View (13,529′). Tommy Caldwell famously added the wall’s first 5.13, the Honeymoon is Over, in 2001. Caldwell and Joe Mills then completed the Diamond’s hardest free route in 2013–the Full Dunn-Westbay (IV 5.14b). There are now a total of four 5.13 routes on the Diamond, counting the recent two, the Honeymoon is Over and the Dunn-Westbay Indirect (IV 5.13a/b), which Wharton completed with Kevin Cochran in 2011.
Q&A with Chris Weidner
What kind of rack would you recommend for the route? How many bolts were added or replaced?
We placed nine new protection bolts and nine new belay bolts total.
[The rack is one-and-a-half sets of nuts, with extras in the medium-to-large sizes; one set of microcams; double set of cams from .5 to 4.5 inches with triples from .6 to 2.5 inches.–Ed.]
I’m guessing this is most likely a free variation that links sections of different aid routes–how much is on new terrain?
Yeah, so the first five pitches are on the Enos Mills Wall (5.11d A3), which free climbers now know as the start of Hearts and Arrows. The crux face pitch (Pitch 6, 5.13b) is new terrain that busts left from the top of the “Winter Wall Dihedral” (first freed and named by Jeff Achey and Leonard Coyne in 1980) to Table Ledge. About two-thirds of Pitch 7 (12b) is part of Enos Mills Wall, but then that route goes left to the next crack system while ours continues straight up. Pitches 8 (13a) and 9 (12d) are completely new terrain, not part of any aid routes.
How many days/seasons have you invested in the route?
We went ground-up on this route in 2005, thinking we might be able to find a way to free the Enos Mills Wall or find a free variation. We freed to the top of the Winter Wall Dihedral, but realized the rock above was too loose and crackless to free climb, and the hard-ish aid would have been too time-consuming for us that day. We bailed. While working on Hearts and Arrows in 2010 we saw from above some possible deviations from the Enos Mills Wall that might go free.
We began on this specific line in earnest in July 2017, so this is our fourth summer working on it. We put in 51 days of work by the time I sent it August 9. This includes some days when we hiked up the night before, bivied, then climbed the next day. Many of those days saw zero climbing progress, but were instead focused on finding the line, cleaning it (which had its own major challenges with the popular North Chimney approach directly below the route), hand-drilling bolts, running away from lightning…
Any drama on the day when the send happened?
Surprisingly, no. The weather was stable, which is huge. It was chilly–it always is–but not terribly cold. I knew the beta and the gear so I just did my best. I was very nervous because I knew a fall would make the whole day much more difficult [if I had] to repeat any of the hard pitches. So I managed to not fall. After topping out we went to the true summit, which we always do when we’re working the route, if weather allows. It was my 42nd summit of Longs Peak (still my only Colorado 14er!).
Do you have any tips or advice for tackling a project on a wall like the Diamond?
What really helped this year has been our commitment to going up consistently, even with less-than-awesome forecasts, with the understanding that we’re outta there as soon as the weather appears threatening. At least for me and Bruce, repetition is crucial because there is so much terrain to learn intimately. I needed to have that base of a bunch of days up there for cardio fitness as well. For me, the confidence I needed to redpoint came only from consistency on the wall.
The only other advice I have is, if the route is truly hard for you, temporarily let go of any other climbing goals and focus just on the Diamond. There are enough factors that have to line up for success that any extra energy output for, say, a sport-climbing project, will only take away from progress on the Diamond. The season is so short that it’s worth putting everything into it. I’m not suggesting not training or bouldering or sport climbing all summer. Rather, prioritize the Diamond and let other training and climbing fall into place around that goal.
What is the recovery process like after each attempt? How did you stay fit between all that hiking and sleeping at altitude, or did you?
“Each attempt” could be misleading. This was my first redpoint attempt this season. I tried once last year in September as a Hail Mary burn. I was pretty sure I couldn’t do it and, sure enough, I got totally spanked. This year I wanted to be sure I was thoroughly prepared before a real attempt and it worked out.
Bruce and I usually go up for two days at a time and work on different pitches, each soloing on toprope. We’ll spend four to six hours on the wall, go down to our bivy at Chasm View, then do it again the next morning before the frequent afternoon storms.
For me, I usually rest two full days with zero exercise after a two-day mission up there. Then, on Day 3, I may have the energy for a fingerboard session or some bouldering. But if we’re going up again within four or five days, which we did a lot this summer, then I’ll do only one workout or possibly zero significant exercise in between trips up there.
Working hard on the route itself has kept me fairly fit. On decent weather days I would climb five or six pitches, with most of them being hard 5.12 or 5.13. Or maybe I’d repeat one or two of the cruxes a handful of times, which feels like a solid bouldering session.
Hiking keeps me light, too, which always helps.
Any story to the route’s name?
One of the themes of Diamond route names revolves around [playing cards]–Jack of Diamonds, Queen of Spades, The Joker, King of Swords, etc.–so gambling is connected that way. Whether we could free the route itself has felt like a gamble for four summers, up until a few weeks ago when it finally seemed possible. It’s as if we’ve been suffering from the Gambler’s Fallacy, which is the mistaken belief that a certain outcome is more or less likely to occur (like freeing the route) because it has or has not happened recently. Like, we’ve put in so much time, always hoping for that different outcome–different from getting spanked, that is. Well, it finally came for me. Now it’s Bruce’s turn.
Q&A with Bruce Miller
Do you remember the first time you and Chris climbed together?
2003 in Vedauwoo. I don’t recall how we met, rock gym probably.
How has it been climbing with Chris on all these adventures over the years? Any thoughts about what works so well in the partnership?
We have a lot of fun, we’re both devoted [but] we don’t take ourselves too seriously. What works especially well for me is that he’s a younger*, stronger, better climber than me! And for him? Hmm… I’m reliable, very comfortable in the mountains…and I’m available!
[*Weidner is 45 years old.–Ed.]
Do you have any comments about Gambler’s Fallacy, or your time up on Longs Peak?
I did [the old Enos Mills aid line] with the late Mike Bearzi back in 2001. I remember thinking maybe someone could continue free past that big corner. Pretty cool to figure it out 19 years later.
Jon Glassberg’s video of the ascent can be found here.
[Alpinist Digital Editor Derek Franz interviewed Chris Weidner for the Alpinist Podcast in November 2019. They discussed Weidner’s ongoing efforts on the Diamond and more. In an earlier episode, “From the Gunks to Desert Towers,” Franz also discussed Diamond climbing history with Jeff Achey. You can find those episodes here on Alpinist.com or wherever you get your podcasts.]