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Avery

climber
NZ
Jun 14, 2015 - 06:52pm PT
1st Ascent: Bryan Becker and Rolf Graage. 1983: 17 days.

2nd Ascent: Ian Parnell and Kenton Kool. 2001: 5 days.

3rd Ascent: Katsutaka Yokoyama and Fumitaka Ichimura. 2005: 5 days.

4th Ascent: Chris Brazeau and Ian Welsted. 2005: 44 hours bergschrund to summit. (avoided entire upper crux corner due to spindrift by moving left several hundred feet and finishing on terrain on or near to the McCartney-Roberts line)

5th Ascent: Colin Haley and Mark Westman. 2007: 45.5 hours bergschrund to summit.

6th Ascent: Kazuaki Amano, Ryo Masumoto, and Takaai Nagato. 2010: Four days. First free ascent of the route's crux pitch at M7+.


Thanks to Mark Westman
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Jun 14, 2015 - 09:17pm PT
It's damn near a trade route now!
Avery

climber
NZ
Jun 14, 2015 - 10:20pm PT
Those are the only ascents I know of. I'm sure there must be others: Watch this space!
Avery

climber
NZ
Jun 16, 2015 - 03:27pm PT
Denali Diamond, 5th Ascent: Mark Westman and Colin Haley.

I knew the FA history which was a terrifying read, but Colin and I knew that Ian and Brazeau had climbed this route in 44 hours a couple years before us; although they had gone around the route's crux upper corner system, it sounded like the way they went- likely the upper part of the McCartney-Roberts- was not much easier. We had no idea if we could do the route in that amount of time, but we were going to pack light and were willing to find out. The big question was how long the 3,800 foot tall lower wall was going to take. We were confident it would go in 2 days max, with another day for doing the upper 4,500 feet of steep snow. But I think we started off up the route intent on climbing until we got off of it.

We timed the weather window perfectly and began climbing at just after 12 midnight just two days before the summer solstice- all the light we would need at nighttime. The lower part of the wall flew by as we found perfect ice and mixed conditions- every rock gully was plastered with sticky water ice and featured incredibly aesthetic climbing on great rock. By 9 AM we had reached a large snowfield just above the big boulder- the place we imagined bivying on the wall if we had to bivi. We didn't even discuss stopping, we brewed up and then started up into the steep corner system soaring above us. the climbing in here was spectacular- narrow ribbons of vertical to overhanging ice bordered by solid, featured granite that offered awesome stemming. After a few hours the sun finally swung around from the east and starting blazing into the slot.

At the base of the crux pitch we stopped again for a quick brew and contemplated the climbing above. For the first time things looked a little intimidating and uncertain. The A3 roof used by the first ascent party was to the right- it looked absolutely insane. I remember Ian and Kenton mentioning that they could not understand why they 1983 party went that way given the less ominous, but still intimidating, corner to the left. Like everyone since we chose the corner. Up to this point in this corner system we'd had ample ice, but now the corner reared up to vertical and overhanging for the next 45-50 meters and there was no ice at all. Fortunately, there were lots of cracks, so we knew we'd make it up by hook or by crook. Colin started climbing and after about 15 meters he ran low on gear and was forced to make a hanging belay. We had brought only a single set of cams and nuts, and this was the only pitch where more gear would have been nice to have. I came up to the uncomfortable hanging belay in front of a granite slab. Colin left his pack behind and finished the pitch with a mix of free and the occasional aid move and reached a good stance. I followed this pitch wearing my followers pack and with the leaders pack hanging from my belay loop. This was super strenuous but it had to do- we had only brought one 9mm half rope and no haul/tag line. I wouldn't bring a haul line just for this one pitch, if I had it to do over again, but the risk involved in doing a route this big with only one rope is certainly debatable. The FA party in 1983 had also done it with one rope (they had forgotten the other one) and only 2 ice screws!! Anyway, above this pitch we knew we were getting close to the end of the rock climbing and were hoping for it to ease off, but instead we had two more thuggish M5 pitches in wide cracks that took a lot of energy.

All of a sudden, a last short pitch dumped us out into the great couloir that shoots up the face along side the Cassin. It was 9 PM and we were pretty worked. Fortunately the weather was beautiful. We had hoped to find snow here, instead it was blue ice for hundreds of feet and to avoid an all night ledge chopping we continued climbing for another 600 exhausting feet up the couloir until we could exit out right into a snowfield with deep snow. 23 1/2 hours and 4.500 feet of climbing after crossing the bergschrund we found our bivi at 16,500'. We ate and drank to our heart's content and finally around 3 AM we fell into a deep restful sleep in the First-light tent. The morning brought a continuation of the perfect weather and we slept in until it was nice and warm. At 2PM we set off for the summit. The trail breaking was typically gnarly but in time we reached the Cassin Ridge at 17,500' and then continued slogging. The views were simply unreal. We stopped and brewed up at 19,000 feet, anticipating that we'd be summiting at a relatively late and chilly hour, which turned out to be a wise move. We reached the summit ridge, set down our packs, and in a cold breeze we continued up to the high point 10 minutes to the right, reaching it at 9:45 PM, a little over 45.5 hours after leaving the bergschrund. We were back at 14 camp and the cache we had left there a few days earlier by midnight, and the following night I arrived back at basecamp and some rewarding rest days in the company of my lovely wife Lisa, the longtime Kahiltna basecamp manager. The Diamond was one of my most rewarding climbs, it was the elusive 'perfect ascent' where everything goes the way you fantasize that it will from the comforts of home, and it was the finest outing that I had, of many, with one of my best partners and friends.

Thanks to Mark Westman


Thanks to Colin Haley
smith curry

climber
nashville,TN
Jun 16, 2015 - 06:24pm PT
So cool
overwatch

climber
Jun 17, 2015 - 12:00am PT
All the adjectives seem trite. Monstrous mountain. There was a time I dreamed of climbing that thing but my day is gone, thanks for the vicarious thrill.
I Parnell

climber
Jun 17, 2015 - 02:19am PT
OK, Avery has done a good job on 'nudging' me, so here is Kenton at the vertical tent site from the second night? during our second ascent. I'd attempted the crux pitch that evening, and we were both beginning to get a bit cold from the spindrift flurries coming down. Unable to pitch the tent horizontally - we improvised.

I've many fond memories from this great route, which I'll post up later. One of the strongest was having summited we dropped down 'directly' into the 14k camp switching from the orient express to the Japanese? couloir. Which looked like we were staggering out of control. These couloirs also had a reputation as accident blackspots, and we had told everyone we had planned to be back 2 or 3 days before. As a result there was a little welcoming party waiting for us - I remember there being Russians there as well as the Rangers - notably John Evans waiting with a brew. All a bit emotional at the time.

Credit: I Parnell
overwatch

climber
Jun 17, 2015 - 07:02am PT
Mr. Parnell, thank you for posting. I, for one, will read and look at the pictures with slack-jawed awe.

Edit:
agreed about Mr.Westman. More stories please!
climbski2

Mountain climber
Anchorage AK, Reno NV
Jun 17, 2015 - 07:11am PT
Almost 20 years before someone managed a second ascent of this route. Thanks for stopping by to share some of the story Ian. Grats on one of the great lines in one of the great ranges of the world.

Looking forward to more of the story!

We are also very lucky to have Mark Westman as a regular poster here. Perhaps he will chime in ..although I wouldn't be surprised if he is up in the range right now doing something cool.
Rick A

climber
Boulder, Colorado
Jun 17, 2015 - 10:36am PT
Nice thread! I didn't know that Bryan had done the FA of this impressive route. I met Bryan in Chamonix in 1976 and we did a climb together, the North Face of the Aiguille du Plan.

Haven't seen him since; hope he is doing well and will chime in here.

Here are a couple of shots of him from the Plan.

Credit: Rick A
Credit: Rick A
I Parnell

climber
Jun 17, 2015 - 10:40am PT
So a few more memories. The tent we took was a prototype designed for Sherpa Babu Chiri to camp on the top of Everest. Kenton is a tall 6ft and I'm a short 6ft, I'm sure it fitted Babu very nicely for us we could only sleep by poking both our legs out the door. It was light though. The attached pic is from our first night when the weather was still pleasant.

The big thing for Kenton and myself was the 'mythology' surrounding the first ascent - it sounded like THE definition of a badass epic and we were really keen to push ourselves that season. We warmed up with a new route on the mini moonflower, then repeated the Moonflower (a tiny amount of aid) to just above the technical stuff and then did Denali Diamond. But just to keep us in our place Stephen Koch and Marko Prezelj also did a new route on the mini moonflower, made the first free ascent of the Moonflower and then did an all new line parallel with the Diamond. They did each of these just after each of our efforts - we accused them of copying us ;-)
Credit: I Parnell
overwatch

climber
Jun 17, 2015 - 10:47am PT
Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
Jun 17, 2015 - 11:37am PT
I spent a lot of time on the west rib staring over at that impossible face.
SICK! SICK! SICK!
Avery

climber
NZ
Jun 17, 2015 - 02:05pm PT
Thanks Rick
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Jun 17, 2015 - 03:08pm PT
The Anasazi climbed up there with some regularity but their moki steps melted out long ago.
christoph benells

Trad climber
Tahoma, Ca
Jun 17, 2015 - 04:04pm PT
there were a couple parties up there this season trying it.

female team including jewel lund ( who has completed polarchrome, mt. huntington, and deprivation, mt hunter)

and montana badasses keenan waeschle and co., who did french route up hunter's N butt previously this season in an 80 hour push.
johntp

Trad climber
socal
Jun 17, 2015 - 04:33pm PT
Great thread. Keep them coming.
Kalimon

Social climber
Ridgway, CO
Jun 17, 2015 - 08:56pm PT
Excellent job on this one Avery! IP on the taco . . . f*#kin' a right!

Colin H is one talented climber and photographer.

Awesome old school shots Mr Rick A . . . a lot of snow in '76.
MarkWestman

Trad climber
Talkeetna, Alaska
Jun 18, 2015 - 12:05am PT
It's nice seeing Ian Parnell on here (Hi Ian!), and also seeing Kenton's mug in that sketchy tent makes me laugh. I assume Stripey Mouse was inside there with him? Haha!! I remember that glorified bivi bag, and as the storm pounded the upper mountain there was considerable mounting concern for you guys brewing at 14 camp. Those were some brilliant years for us all, eh?

Avery, reading Ian's account, it would seem that I gave you one erroneous piece of information- Ian Parnell and Kenton Cool did their ascent in 2001, not 2002 as I noted.

I'd like to take a moment to clarify something that has recently come to light regarding the history of the climbing on this face. After Jack Roberts died in 2012, Simon McCartney reappeared and- through this website-he and I met and have become good friends. Simon is just finishing a memoir about his brief but brilliant partnership with Jack, centering around the first ascent of Huntington's north face in 1978, and then their ascent of the southwest face of Denali in 1980. High Alaska by Jon Waterman had shown the line of the their 1980 ascent as being well to the left of the Denali Diamond, going up an extremely steep rock buttress that looked pretty improbable even by modern standards. Not much info was available about this ascent because Simon contracted HACE at 19,000 feet and his epic rescue (ten days getting down the Cassin with the help of many climbers, no food for a week, Jack went over the top to get help and suffered major frostbite on his feet, and the rescue team became bogged down with another accident on the west buttress) became a controversial, complex, harrowing ordeal and some conflicting accounts and hard feelings were produced. That's another story, and an incredible one at that, but no detailed account or photos of the climb ever really appeared in public. Simon completely disappeared from the climbing world for the next 30 years, and never climbed again.

I had talked at length with Jack over the years about where exactly their route went. He had always insisted it was well left of the Diamond as an entirely independent line. However, photos that Simon has shared with me recently indicate with no doubt whatsoever that the lower 2/3 of the rock wall followed the same line as what became the Diamond in 1983. Their photos show them clearly climbing some of the same pitches that Colin and I climbed. Basically, there's a huge ramp leading to the massive boulder at 2/3 height. On this ramp there are many closely spaced variations, but essentially it's one line, and it's the line of least resistance. When they reached the huge boulder, a massive feature which is plainly visible in all the photos of the wall, they had intended to continue up the obvious upper corner which the Diamond route now follows; however, they thought it looked way too difficult and decided to find another way off to the left.

This made sense to me, because when you stand at the foot of the wall, the ice-splattered ramps are so obvious, soaring up the wall and shouting out "come climb me!". Everything else looks futuristically difficult. In 1980, with this wall completely unclimbed, it would have made no sense that the FA suitors would have chosen a line of greater resistance. Simon corroborates this as well.

So...the short story is that what is today known as the Denali Diamond is actually more of a major and more direct variation to the McCartney-Roberts route. Talking with Simon, it seems clear that the Diamond's finishing crux corner is considerably more difficult, although the way they went did have 5.9 difficulties including a pitch led by Jack ("Roberts Traverse) which was apparently quite hard- Jack took off his plastic boot shells and led it in his boot liners!!!

Finally...in 2005, Canadian badasses Ian Welsted and Chris Brazeau did another variation. When they reached the base of the upper crux corner, just above and right of the big block, the upper corner was getting pounded by heavy spindrift and they wisely wanted no part of that action. They started traversing left to find another way around. Where the 1980 party had traversed just below the big block, Ian and Chris began traversing left from just above the block. As I recall, Ian mentioned that they did a tension traverse and a rappel to get over some rock ribs into better gully systems, and overall the climbing involved several pretty hard mixed pitches. I would have to presume that their traverse likely gained, eventually, the finish to Jack and Simon's line, as ultimately the huge rock features on the upper wall don't offer many obvious weaknesses.

To clarify all the above, here are a couple photos illustrating where everything goes:

Photo taken by John Fitzgerald, a friend of mine who lives in Virginia...
Photo taken by John Fitzgerald, a friend of mine who lives in Virginia and climbed the Cassin Ridge just before Colin and I climbed the Diamond, in June of 2007.
Credit: MarkWestman

Aerial taken last January. This shows the McCartney-Roberts finish a b...
Aerial taken last January. This shows the McCartney-Roberts finish a bit better. Definitely, their line gets a bit closely into the line of fire of those huge seracs. The Diamond is completely out of the way, however.
Credit: MarkWestman

I should conclude this historical discussion by stating that Jack and Simon started up this then-unclimbed 8000 foot wall in full alpine style. Just two men, a rope, a rack, and the packs on their backs. In 1980, the alpine style ethic was just getting ramped up in Alaska. The Infinite Spur on Foraker was the only route of comparable size that had been done alpine style for its first ascent at that time. Denali is 3000 feet higher than Foraker in altitude and the climbing on this face is technically much harder than the Infinite. Despite Simon's illness and subsequent self-rescue (made possible by many nearby teams, most notably the selfless efforts of Cassin climber Bob Kandiko) Jack and Simon's ascent was, in my opinion, one of the boldest and most audacious ascents in Alaska climbing history, and I'd like to see it given its due.

The Denali Diamond, meanwhile, straightened out the line and as it stands, it comes as close to pure alpine perfection as one can hope for in terms of the sheer quality of the climbing and position. I, like Ian, was a bit taken in by the 'mythology' around this route, and many others in Alaska for that matter. I was pleased to have not added anything more to the myth!

Colin Haley and I had done a lot of climbing together in the years leading up to our ascent, including Fitzroy and several other Patagonian towers, the west face of North Howser Tower in the Bugaboos, and the Index Peaks traverse in Washington state. The DD was the biggest and best climb we did together, and it was a springboard for bigger things to come in the next few years, for each of us independently. For me, it most notably represented a significant point of progress in my multi-year mental migration from the slower, heavier alpinism I had learned in the 1990's, to the modern, light and fast ethic. That transition had everything to do with my partnership with Colin, who was 14 years younger than me (he was 23 and I was 37 at the time of this ascent). I credit his youthful and forward-thinking influence- not to mention his raw talent- for helping me evolve my way of approaching all things climbing as I've advanced into middle age; Now 45, I continue pushing myself in the mountains and striving hard to improve my skills- perhaps more measured than 15 years ago, but smarter and more pragmatic. As I go along this path, I can only proudly admire Colin's meteoric evolution into one of the world's most accomplished and motivated alpinists.

And enough talk. Enjoy some more photos of this beautiful route.

Colin following a traversing pitch low on the route.
Colin following a traversing pitch low on the route.
Credit: MarkWestman

3:00 AM sunrise on Foraker, on the 2007 summer solstice. One of the pe...
3:00 AM sunrise on Foraker, on the 2007 summer solstice. One of the perks of Alaska climbing.
Credit: MarkWestman

Typical climbing on the lower wall. Type 1 fun!
Typical climbing on the lower wall. Type 1 fun!
Credit: MarkWestman

Colin coming up one of the mixed pitches on the lower wall.
Colin coming up one of the mixed pitches on the lower wall.
Credit: MarkWestman

Colin in his element.
Colin in his element.
Credit: MarkWestman

The lower wall almost done, Colin takes us up into the business.
The lower wall almost done, Colin takes us up into the business.
Credit: MarkWestman

The second of three awesome crux pitches in the upper corner (WI5+).
The second of three awesome crux pitches in the upper corner (WI5+).
Credit: MarkWestman

Colin starting up the crux pitch of the route. The Japanese team in 20...
Colin starting up the crux pitch of the route. The Japanese team in 2010 was the first, and only team to date, to climb this pitch completely free, giving it a grade of M7+. Good protection the entire way, but very steep and sustained.
Credit: MarkWestman

Day 2, after the bivouac. The rope's in the pack, heads down, and legs...
Day 2, after the bivouac. The rope's in the pack, heads down, and legs are pumping.
Credit: MarkWestman

Just after gaining the Cassin Ridge at 17,500'
Just after gaining the Cassin Ridge at 17,500'
Credit: MarkWestman

19,000 feet. Step, breath, Step, breath...
19,000 feet. Step, breath, Step, breath...
Credit: MarkWestman

Summit view. Mount Hunter dead center.
Summit view. Mount Hunter dead center.
Credit: MarkWestman

Colin's shot of us when we got back to 14 camp at midnight, and we're ...
Colin's shot of us when we got back to 14 camp at midnight, and we're very happy.
Credit: MarkWestman

The lower wall as viewed from a helicopter during a SAR search for a m...
The lower wall as viewed from a helicopter during a SAR search for a missing skier in 2009.
Credit: MarkWestman
Avery

climber
NZ
Jun 18, 2015 - 12:41am PT
Thanks a lot Mark. Your post brings some welcome clarity in relation to the Diamond and the McCartney/Roberts line. Pics as good as ever!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jun 18, 2015 - 01:01am PT
Wow, great photos and stories, Mark!
Nice work on figuring out where the Roberts-McCartney route went.
That last photo of the climb gives a really nice 3-D perspective on the features - it complements the route overlay lines very well.

Thanks to Ian, also.

And to Avery for uncovering another very interesting hard climb and its repeats.
nah000

climber
no/w/here
Jun 18, 2015 - 02:00am PT
fucK yeah Mark!!!

thanks for taking the time to share via both your writing and photos some incredible history and your own story...

and a big thanks to Avery for getting another great thread started and then knocking on people's doors until they answer... that photo of the vertical tent pitch is classic and hilarious... and so a big thanks to Ian as well...

fantastic thread!
overwatch

climber
Jun 18, 2015 - 07:29am PT
Mr. Westman,

Nice write up and pictures. It is threads like these...
I Parnell

climber
Jun 18, 2015 - 01:55pm PT
Hi Mark, long time no see. We need to get together and do a route one day soon. Good detective work re the route lines. For those interested in this climb, I think my partner Kenton Cool is going to cover it in his book. Which he's just finishing it will be published by Penguin/Random House. I noticed he'd retweeted the pic below which seems to sum up the DD and basically all of alpinism.
Credit: I Parnell
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jun 18, 2015 - 03:23pm PT
I think Kenton's diagram is about "memorable climbs".
Out of comfort zone does not necessarily imply a high risk of death.
It does mean you are being challenged on the climb.

Fun/magic can happen on easy climbs, too.
Avery

climber
NZ
Jun 18, 2015 - 07:25pm PT
I agree with both Clint's and Relax, Guy's comments regarding my statements about Kenton's caption. They were extreme and ill considered, so I've confined them to oblivion (For those that are interested, you can read my comments in Relax, Guy's post) I'm annoyed with myself for becoming sidetracked. Let's get back to the topic.
BeeTee

Social climber
Valdez Alaska
Jun 18, 2015 - 07:51pm PT
Nice thread...being a close personal friend of Bryan Becker. ..at the time..
And now for that matter..Becker had alot of go for it...soloed the dragon Route
Black canyon.....early ascent of the fang vail..the list goes on...hes in
his late fifties...still lives in Colorado springs. Probably isn't on social media
...he would be quite amused with this thread and the great pics...cheers teale...
valdez ak...
cavemonkey

Ice climber
ak
Jun 18, 2015 - 08:10pm PT
Word up valdez!!!
Glad ak has a voice and lurks on st
How bout a ruth trip report bt?!
Avery

climber
NZ
Jun 18, 2015 - 11:09pm PT
Denali Diamond, 6th Ascent: Kazuaki Amano, Ryo Masumoto, and Takaai Nagato.

Credit: Ryo Masumoto
Credit: Ryo Masumoto
Credit: Ryo Masumoto

Thanks to Ryo Masumoto
I Parnell

climber
Jun 19, 2015 - 12:34am PT
Hey Clint, Relax and Avery - don't fret about the 'comfort zone diagram' its probably drawn by some marketing plonker to motivate a viagra spamming sales team. As long as you find your mojo it don't matter where it is.
Got to meet Bryan briefly in CO seemed a fine still psyched dude - the DD was obviously an important part of his life
Avery

climber
NZ
Jun 19, 2015 - 02:01am PT
Thanks Ian. There must be something wrong with me: I'm living in a world I don't understand.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jun 19, 2015 - 02:18am PT
Cool photos by Ryo Matsumoto - thanks for sharing.
Avery

climber
NZ
Jun 19, 2015 - 04:23pm PT
Denali Diamond (Number 4)

Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jun 19, 2015 - 04:54pm PT
There's also an article on Light Traveler (2001 Prezelj-Koch route just right of Denali Diamond):
http://stephenkoch.com/light-traveler-new-route-on-denali-mckinley/
It has this color overlay photo, but as Mark Westman has discovered, the overlay lines on these older photos are not very accurate for some parts of the climbs. (Probably good for Light Traveler, though)
[Click to View Linked Image]
There's also this fun photo of Kenton Cool and Ian Parnell on this 2001 trip where Prezelj and Koch kept stalking them:
[Click to View Linked Image]
MarkWestman

Trad climber
Talkeetna, Alaska
Jun 19, 2015 - 06:05pm PT
In Avery's photo (is that from RJ Secor's book?) the route line shown for the McCartney-Roberts (#3) is essentially correct for the upper half of the rock wall, it's just that in the lower half, as I described earlier, it actually follows #4 and then traverses across that obvious snowfield just underneath the huge boulder.

I think Secor, and Waterman's books, have always just put a line for the McCartney-Roberts that was a "best guess", because no one really knew where it went except Jack and Simon.

The comfort zone for me can mean many things, but I took Kenton's (via Ian) photo to mean the boundary that defines a guaranteed outcome vs. an uncertain outcome. When one engages a challenge in the realm of the latter, that's when magic happens- and I take magic to be self knowledge, and transformative learning. That boundary *might* be defined by a increase to extreme risks, but it doesn't have to be. Trying to lead a splitter (i.e. protectable) crack that is at your physical limits might be outside of your comfort zone if you have a great fear of failure and are accustomed to succeeding. In that case, risking failure is the only way to learn what your mind and body can do at your physical limits. Even if you fail to achieve, you have gained more information.
It's much the same in alpinism, perhaps with higher consequences, but even that doesn't have to mean mortal danger. For the Diamond, I started up the route in a style that made me rather uneasy. I knew we could *do* the route, but we were less sure of how fast and efficient we could be in trying to do it as light as we wanted to go. We assessed the risks and knew that we could either suffer our way up and off if we failed to live up to our projected pace, or, we could bail-with difficulty- if we really had to.
But truthfully, when I saw Kenton's photo, my first reaction was to smile and nod my head. The meme applies at all levels of skill and risk.

And, Ian Parnell! I'd love to climb a route with you! Chamonix next year? I may finally be coming over there for a trip. Or if you come stateside before then, give a call. It will be a fine time.

Avery

climber
NZ
Jun 20, 2015 - 04:19pm PT
Denali Diamond, 3rd Ascent: Katsutaka Yokoyama and Fumitaka Ichimura.

Credit: The Giri-Giri Boys
velvet!

Trad climber
La Cochitaville
Jun 21, 2015 - 02:46am PT
I'm waiting on a detailed update of the 7th ascent that was just completed!

"We sent! bad to the bone." was all they wrote.

Awesome!

:)
lib
Harvey Miller

Trad climber
Colo. Spgs.
Jun 22, 2015 - 12:18pm PT
I remember Brian's feet where so swollen after his Denali climb that he actually looked like a hobbit! Can't remember what shoes he could wear after that. What a great friend Brian has always been.
Avery

climber
NZ
Jun 23, 2015 - 03:12pm PT
Denali Diamond, Fourth Ascent: Ian Welsted and Chris Brazeau.

A Diamond in the Rough: Denali's Southwest Face, by Ian Welsted

In 1983, Bryan Becker and his client (!?!) established Denali Diamond (Alaska 6, 5.9 A3), the second route on the face. It took an obvious weakness through steep granite, passing a diamond-shaped block 2500 feet up the route. A 25-foot A3 roof provided the crux, at approximately 16,000 feet on the last technical pitch. From there, 4000 feet of slogging up the upper snow slopes led to the summit ridge. A new route was born — and the legend grew, as this route doesn’t seem to have been noticed widely, either (AAJ 1984, p. 84). Nearly 20 years passed with no action on the face. Stephen Koch and Marko Pretzel considered attempting the second ascent of Denali Diamond in 2001, but climbed between it and the Cassin to create Light Traveler (Alaska Grade 6, M7 WI6) in 43 hours. Finally, the Diamond s aw its second ascent when Kenton Cool and Ian Parnell spent five days on it in 2002. They unlocked the secret to an M7+ version following cracks to the left of the roof. Being British, they bivied in heavy spindrift and persevered to nearly free the crux, with a hang and a tension traverse. Just before flying out of Talkeetna, Chris Brazeau met Jumbo Yokoyama and Fumitaka Ichimura, who raved about thousands of feet of continuous mixed ground. Their stoke after completing the third ascent in seven days seemed to have Chris salivating.

Having Chris in camp provided interest in something a little more demanding: We would try for the FFA of the Diamond in a speedy, single-push style. We left the landing strip at 11 p.m. on June 13. Skiing in the “Valley of Death” in the twilight, we peered up at Raphael Slawinski and Valeriy Babanov’s new route, Infinity Direct (Alaska 5, M4/5). This made me reflect on how inspiring climbing in the big mountains can be. Earlier, those two had left the landing strip seemingly without hope of success as the weather had been brutal. I figured no one had been active. They — quite like Johnny Varco and Sue Nott, who summited Denali in 70-mph winds — did not let the notorious Alaskan weather stand in their way, and sent in light and fast style. Andrej Stremfelj, the godfather of Himalayan alpine style, had spoken with us of attempting the Cassin without a tent. Combined, these impressions allayed my fears of heading up the southwest face with one rope and no bivy gear. The people who head to such places inspire one to question one’s own limitations. With these thoughts in my head, we raced towards the looming face.

We crossed the ’schrund eagerly at 10 a.m. Route-finding was exceedingly simple, as to our right was an immense granite wall, home to Light Traveler. We walked up snow slopes, practicing pied à plat, skipping from ledge to ledge as more rock appeared. With dense fog surrounding us, a path of-least-resistance philosophy sped us along. For three long simulclimbing pitches, we looked for a flattish spot where we could stop and hydrate. Chris figured we were close to topping out; with no altimeter, who could tell? We both said, “I’ll just look a little further,” when swapping leads, but nothing appeared other than great moderate mixed climbing. How anyone could stop to pitch a tent on such terrain was a mystery to me until I saw Cool’s and Parnell’s photos of their vertically aligned pup tent in Gripped (Dec. /Jan. 2006). Glad I’m not British and super hard-core.

We reached a flat spot after a stellar body-width ice runnel plastered against the soaring right wall. Unfortunately, we were in line with the upper section of the route. Rock above protected us from the big one if it came, but continuous heavy spindrift fell on us. All my fears of objective hazards came back to me. My reservation about Denali Diamond was that it is a garbage chute for the 4000-foot upper snow slopes of Denali. A week earlier on the Cassin, we had wallowed in waist-deep new snow. Accustomed to Rockies snowpacks, I could not accept this as safe. Being a different animal, Chris didn’t seem worried. More encouragingly, the clouds cleared momentarily. We were level and right of the Diamond block, and at a juncture on the route. From here we obviously needed to head rightward up a gully system. Rocky and much steeper, the ground ahead dictated changing from simulclimbing with the rope doubled to pitching it out. A 60-metre pitch with an M6/7 crux at the very end had Chris doing what he does best, and me asking for tension on second. Above, we could clearly see what I later heard described by Cool or Parnell as four of the best pitches they have climbed in the alpine. Foremost in my mind, however, were the probable dire consequences of having to lead M7+ at such an elevation. Memories of rapping a similarly committing face with one rope overcame me. Thus, I cast about for an excuse, which came in the form of the spindrift. I talked Chris into a sideways escape. Regret is a terrible thing, but if I could go back in time…

Our sideways retreat was based on my path-of-least resistance idea. From the valley, there appeared to be two possible exits to the technical ground: the crux roof, and another further left. This was not the case. Chris led up the next major gully system but came to a dead end. A more technical traverse with the only loose rock on the entire route, led to another. We were both quite delusional after 22 hours on the face and 33 on the go. Neither of us could make the crucial decision as to how to proceed, so we sat down for a brew. When Chris, who didn’t have insulated pants, couldn’t stand shivering any longer, we took the easy way out and rapped a few metres to the next ramp system left, where we made our way through the last of the rock. At 11 p.m. we topped out below huge seracs 200 metres left of our intended route. All our traversing had taken much time and effort and had merely swapped snow-avalanche hazard for serac hazard. How much better it would have been to go straight up those last four pitches, if only I could have controlled my phantom fears.

I now could repay Chris’s rope-gunning by doing what I do best: burying my head and suffering. Chris had flown onto the mountain a month after me and was lacking acclimatization for altitude. Prezelj and Koch wrote that the upper snow slopes were some of the hardest “climbing” they had done in terms of fatigue. We had now been awake for two days; however, since I had summited twice already, the climb was essentially in the bag as far as I was concerned. Underestimating the upper slopes, my mind played tricks on me. A few times I told Chris that we were nearly at the summit ridge. When I clued in to where we were, I took some of the rack from him to ease his obvious pain. “It’s like yoga — just think about breathing and nothing else,” was the little help I could give him, forgetting that yoga is maybe not a preferred leisure activity in his hometown of Golden, B.C. Our primary error was not stopping to brew up. At 6 a.m. The Kahiltna Horn arrived below our weary legs. The ethical question of whether to traverse the final ridge to the summit a few hundred feet higher didn’t even arise. Numerous naps followed on the way down to the 14,000-foot advance base camp. A highlight on the way came when a ranger asked Chris what we’d done. The response to Chris’s claim of the Diamond was a somewhat dumbfounded, “But, where’s your gear…?”

The zoo at 14,000 feet was a welcome sight, as we had run out of food and were glad of the handouts from departing groups. It was like a bad CBC comedy rerun as rumor spread that “Ian from Canmore” had climbed the Cassin and the Diamond back to back in 10 days. After passing seven hours seeking shelter from the beating sun, answering questions about the routes, and gorging, we headed down, wishing for skis the whole time. Seventy-six hours after leaving the landing strip, we were back and very happy. Any thoughts of further activity were drowned out by the growing slush pools of mid-June. There was one piece of unfinished business, as we had left our skis at the base of the route. Disabled by severe foot pain, I argued that the skis would disappear in a winter. Chris, more environmentally sensitive, wouldn’t hear of leaving them. It was no surprise that the skis were gone when we reached the ’schrund, but at least we had made the effort. The spindrift had done them in; luckily, this hadn’t happened to any of the 12 climbers who made it up the face.

In conclusion: a few thoughts. Jack Roberts recently mentioned that his and Becker’s lines independent of the upper Cassin dictate that their routes have not truly been repeated: What makes these routes on the Southwest face so exhausting and difficult is the willingness to keep to the original route and so keep the commitment factor intact. Breaking the snow for two thousand feet on a remote route is far more difficult mentally and physically than traversing off to the broken trail on the Cassin Ridge. Still, I personally think that one can hardly call the Cassin a broken trail, since a day’s wind erases any tracks, as I witnessed first-hand. On our ascent we had no knowledge of where prior parties had gone, and didn’t really care. Joining the Cassin at about 18,000 feet, we just went the most logical way. Why choose a loaded snow bowl over a windswept ridge, other than for the sake of the record books? In fact, through correspondence with Jack, I think that we just as likely repeated the McCartney/Roberts as the Diamond, or somehow linked the two. High Alaska, by Jonathan Waterman, maps separate paths for the two routes, but memories have faded since the 1980s and no one seems to be able to figure out exactly where the original lines lie. As for our hopes of doing the “first free ascent”, who cares when faced with Alaskan weather? Just so that we could tack on the letters FFA by skipping a tension traverse? What about bailing out of the crux pitches? Was it out of irrational fear, self-limiting thought, or a self-preservation instinct honed in past episodes? Does it somehow invalidate or lessen our climb? Although I do regret missing four great pitches, I also saw my skis disappear over the course of a week and am happy to live another day. Maybe I should blow my own horn some more and claim a new variation and the first single-push ascent. If comparisons were to be made, we only took 44 hours whereas it took Twight 60 on the Czech Direct, so does that mean I should take an elitist attitude towards him? I don’t think that this type of thinking is valid. Rather, maybe I should emulate the truly great climbers of the Rockies whose accomplishments pass in near-obscurity, but then this article wouldn’t have been written. After all, we’re just out there to have fun.

The long and the short of it is that, as Jack Roberts wrote, the Diamond “could be ascended quickly in single push style and is well within the climbing standards of many climbers”. The route ought to be a classic. By pushing one’s limits yet remaining realistic, more climbers should be able to enjoy Denali’s southwest-face routes. The routes established by previous parties are so unclear that worrying about who has been where seems pedantic. Just don’t take a tent; beware the dangers above; use “first-ascent eyes”; and try to align yourselves so that the crux pitches feel the bite of your crampons. Leave the rest to the historians and chat-room skeptics once you’re safely off De-gnarl-i.

Thanks to Ian Welsted




Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jun 23, 2015 - 04:52pm PT
Good stuff - thanks for sharing it.

Although I believe Ian Parnell has established that he and Kenton Cool did the 2nd ascent in 2001 (not 2002), just before Prezelj and Koch did Light Traveler. [But see below - back to 2002 now]
So the list of ascents should have that date changed, as Mark Westman has also noted.
Avery

climber
NZ
Jun 23, 2015 - 07:40pm PT
Thanks Clint, I've made the necessary change.
Bldrjac

Ice climber
Boulder
Jun 25, 2015 - 02:35pm PT
Mark,
Thanks so much for giving credit to Jack and Simon....you didn't need to do it, but it would mean a lot to Jack, and means a lot to me. I recall he was very psyched about the ascent of the Denali Diamond (I seem to remember when you and he were corresponding), as he felt it was great that that particular face was getting some interest again, after so long.
Hopefully Simon's book will be ready by Christmas. Their two climbs were incredibly visionary for the times, and it will be cool to see their story (s) put together in one package! Anyway, I have always appreciated your support of Jack and his Alaska climbs........I know he would be grateful, as well.
best,
Pam Roberts
Avery

climber
NZ
Jun 25, 2015 - 02:57pm PT
Thanks Pam, I grew up reading about Jack and Simon's colorful exploits. Like you, I'm looking forward to Simon's upcoming book.
I Parnell

climber
Jun 25, 2015 - 03:24pm PT
Sorry to mess up the list having now had a good google - a lot more reliable than my memory - I can confirm that Kenton and I did DD in 2002, in 2001 we did mini moonflower, moonflower and a new thing on Fathers and Sons wall. Sorry for the confusion - it is a long time ago - a least a few lifetimes.
MarkWestman

Trad climber
Talkeetna, Alaska
Jun 25, 2015 - 03:46pm PT
Oh geez Ian, and here I was worried that my memory- usually reliable- was fading.

2002 it is then.

Pam, thank you. Jack left behind a towering legacy which has inspired many of us, and I'm sorry for your loss.
I too look forward to Simon's book, it's going to be great!

Avery

climber
NZ
Jun 25, 2015 - 07:44pm PT
Thanks Ian
Sierra Ledge Rat

Mountain climber
Old and Broken Down in Appalachia
Jun 26, 2015 - 04:44am PT
SiCk sTuFf
velvet!

Trad climber
La Cochitaville
Jun 27, 2015 - 03:25pm PT
"American climbers Chantel Astorga and Jewell Lund made the first female ascent of the Denali Diamond, one of Denali's most difficult routes. The pair made the ascent in 5 days after spending 2 weeks acclimatizing at 14K and higher on the West Buttress. They found more rock than usual for this difficult mixed route."

http://www.nps.gov/dena/Field-Report-June-24.htm

yea ladies!!!
Avery

climber
NZ
Jun 27, 2015 - 04:24pm PT
Thanks velvet!
Jdizzle

Boulder climber
Lander, wy. Born 1992. student of physics and pain
Jun 30, 2015 - 10:12pm PT
@ Christoph Benells

Jun 17, 2015 - 04:04pm PT
there were a couple parties up there this season trying it.

female team including jewel lund ( who has completed polarchrome, mt. huntington, and deprivation, mt hunter)

and montana badasses keenan waeschle and co., who did french route up hunter's N butt previously this season in an 80 hour push.

Kurt Ross from CO, and myself from WY were on the 80 hr push climbing the french route as a party of 2.(our trip report). Keenan and Dave did not climb the french route with us, but they attempted it the week previously with Kurt. They shared coffee, food, and laughs with us on the glacier. They then went up for an attempt on the Diamond.

@ all: thanks for the beta, this looks like a beautiful route.

and: congrats to Lund and Astorga!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jun 30, 2015 - 11:48pm PT
http://www.alpinist.com/doc/web15x/newswire-chantel-astorga-jewell-lund-climb-denali-diamond
Story and photos. 4.5 days.
Chantel Astorga has set the women's speed record on the Nose a couple of times:
 September 16th 2011 Libby Sauter and Chantel Astorga set the women's speed record on the Nose route. Congrats Chantel and Libby! 10 hours and 40 minutes.
 New Women's Nose Record by Mayan Smith-Gobat and Chantel Astorga on Sept 23rd [2012] in a time of 7:26. They also were the first all women team to do the HD/EC linkup.
from Hans' site:
http://speedclimb.com/
Avery

climber
NZ
Jul 1, 2015 - 12:25am PT
Thanks Clint, for a timely link.
Avery

climber
NZ
Jul 1, 2015 - 02:04am PT
Ascents List, Update:

1st Ascent: Bryan Becker and Rolf Graage. 1983: 17 days.

2nd Ascent: Ian Parnell and Kenton Kool. 2002: 5 days.

3rd Ascent: Katsutaka Yokoyama and Fumitaka Ichimura. 2005: 5 days.

4th Ascent: Chris Brazeau and Ian Welsted. 2005: 44 hours bergschrund to summit. (avoided entire upper crux corner due to spindrift by moving left several hundred feet and finishing on terrain on or near to the McCartney-Roberts line)

5th Ascent: Colin Haley and Mark Westman. 2007: 45.5 hours bergschrund to summit.

6th Ascent: Kazuaki Amano, Ryo Masumoto, and Takaai Nagato. 2010: Four days. First free ascent of the route's crux pitch at M7+.

7th Ascent: Chantel Astorga and Jewell Lund. 2015: Five Days. 1st (all) Female Ascent.

Thanks to Mark Westman
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Jul 1, 2015 - 11:47am PT
The updated list looks good, except the 2nd ascent is supposed to go back to 2002 now that Ian reviewed it further.
Did you notice that the new Alpinist article linked to this thread? :-)
Avery

climber
NZ
Jul 1, 2015 - 03:58pm PT
Thanks Clint, don't know where this thread would be without you.
My observation leaves much to be desired: I didn't notice the Supertopo link.
Still, it shows we must be doing something right!
Allen Hill

Social climber
CO.
Jul 3, 2015 - 07:42pm PT
Bryan called the other night and sounded as chipper than ever. He's doing well.
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