The Diamond via Casual Route — Trip & Training Report

  • Creator
  • #6008
    Chris R

    Hi all,

    I’ve really enjoyed reading about everyone else’s training and objectives here on the forum, so I wanted to share some info about my recent climb and my training for it.

    I started rock climbing a while ago but took a long break from it in recent years (new job, moved to another country, new kid, etc). Last year I decided to get back into it. I did my first guided alpine climb in RMNP last summer and then Kiener’s Route on Long’s Peak in October as my first really long alpine day (14 hours car to car in wintry conditions, it was tiring but awesome!).

    At that point I was hooked and decided to train to attempt a guided climb of the Casual Route on the Diamond on Long’s Peak in RMNP this summer. I wanted to make sure it felt reasonably comfortable and not an epic so I started training with a TFNA plan last December and then some help from Steve to customize to work with being both in the city and fairly time constrained. At that point I was only able to follow/onsight up to old-school 5.9, so I had to both improve my technical skills by a grade, and then have enough endurance to do this at 14,000 feet: the Casual Route crux is the last pitch, right after a squeeze chimney! Oh, and I live at roughly sea level, in NYC…

    The Diamond

    I headed to Boulder at the end of August for a week of climbing with my guide Zach Lovell (huge thank you to him, and he also took all the photos!). Earlier in the week we climbed some classics in Eldo (Yellow Spur, Green Spur, first 2 pitches of Rincon, Five-Ten Crack, Gambit) and did a fast alpine warmup on Hallett Peak (Great Dihedral route, watched eclipse from the summit!).

    Green Spur

    For the Diamond, the weather had been somewhat rainy all week, but Friday turned out great. We hiked in the day before and bivied in a boulder cave, with the usual other bivy spots already taken.


    After 3am alarm, I learned the trick of using my nut tool as an ice tool, then raced up North Chimney in the dark. We were second on the Casual route, and about the same speed as the party ahead and behind, so this worked well. There were also parties climbing Pervertical, Yellow Wall, Black Dagger and the Dunn-Westbay (5.14a!), which was cool to watch. We descended via Diamond rappels. About 5h25m from Broadway to starting our raps.

    Lower traverse pitch
    Below the crux
    Upper traverse

    The last part of the route was still pretty tough (definitely felt the altitude, I don’t think I am a fast acclimatizer). We linked the dihedral pitches into one amazing 200’ pitch. The squeeze chimney on the crux pitch was tiring but fun.. that was my first squeeze chimney actually. The crux wasn’t too bad! It felt absolutely fantastic to succeed after training and thinking about this goal for 9 months!


    Here’s some details and data on my training. Overall, in the last 2 months I have been feeling really strong, both technically (onsighting a bunch of 5.10s in the Gunks and Eldo for the first time after only being able to onsight 5.9s) and from an endurance point of view. I onsighted my first 5.11 in the gym in July and holds I previously could barely hang on to now felt almost like rests. The rock rings/finger strength endurance training really started paying off. I did a 24 pitch day in the Gunks in July and felt great. The squats and split squats (and carrying my 40lb daughter around on my shoulders ? ) made a noticeable difference to hiking through the talus fields and feeling good after long uphill hikes with a pack on.

    Hike up to bivy – we were taking it easy but still made good time. 2h46m, with about 30lb packs. 1200’/hr on the main climb.

    Ascent from bivy and most of the rappels (HR monitor and then watch ran out of battery at the end.. next time I need to shut off the GPS for the climb, or remember to bring the correct charging cable…)

    Training peaks summary since I started this training (mid Dec 2016) (Run=Z1, Other=Z3, Custom=climbing)
    TrainingPeaks summary

    I was stuck at CTL ~50 for a long time, and was getting a bit worried since I saw Scott’s forum post that this was petty low. But I wasn’t doing any of the manual TSS adjustments he suggested, so these are pure hrTSS numbers so they are probably a bit lower than reality. Still, I was at about CTL 70 the week of my climb. I am pretty pleased with getting an average of 8 hrs of training per week done.

    I did another metabolic test during my taper period in mid Aug, was curious to see if any change. I went to a different facility this time (HSS in NYC), and they did this test at an incline so it probably wasn’t completely comparable to the previous one. They said they had heard of Uphill Athlete and had had a few other climbers doing the test there. It looks like my VO2max increased by 9% but I was a bit disappointed to see that my AeT seemed unchanged at around 140 bpm. Maybe I just need a lot more Z1 time in the bank, but I was steadily increasing my completed distances on my Z1 workouts (see graph below) which I thought could mean my AeT was improving.

    Z1 incline treadmill

    Anyway, big thanks to Steve and Scott for the training plans, TFTNA, uphillathlete forum, and advice! Having a structured plan and getting those workouts to turn ‘green’ in trainingpeaks was a surprisingly good motivator.

    I’m starting to think about the next training cycle. I think I am hooked on long alpine rock routes! Over the next year I’d like to bump up my technical skills to be able to onsight (follow) alpine trad 5.11a. I also want to gain experience trad leading so I can share in leading the easier pitches on long alpine rock routes. Now I just have to pick some objectives for the coming winter and next summer…!

  • Moderator
    Jason Antin on #6695

    Nice work Chris! Thanks for sharing the outing, and your training. Keep us posted on your next adventures.

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