New Winter Speed Record on the Diamond

The Diamond, with the approximate line of the winter speed record.

The Diamond, with the approximate line of the winter speed record. The climbers descended the north face, to the right. Photo by Dougald MacDonald

3/17/14 - Stanislav "Stanley" Vrba and Josh Wharton set a new speed record for climbing the Diamond wall on Longs Peak, Colorado, in winter. On March 14, the two skied about five miles to the foot of the 14,259-foot peak and then climbed the North Chimney and D7 routes, descended to their skis, and sped out to the car in a total of 10 hours 17 minutes.

The winter time for climbing Colorado's most famous alpine wall is coming down rapidly. The 900-foot, vertical cliff, rising above a 400-foot approach wall, was first climbed in less than 20 hours in 1996, by Topher Donahue and Craig Luebben, followed later that winter by Kennan Harvey, who soloed the route and completed the car-to-car round trip in an astonishing 17 hours. The following year, Wharton and the late Jonny Copp did the round trip in 14 hours 17 minutes. And last winter, Scott Bennett and Joe Mills brought the mark down to 12 hours 31 minutes.

Wharton said the two had "reasonably good conditions" last Friday, with warm weather but lots of snow in places. Vrba led the North Chimney, and Wharton led the D7 route, short-fixing with Vrba jumaring behind. (The North Chimney is mostly a snow climb in winter, and D7, a 5.11c summer route, is the most commonly ascended winter route on the Diamond because of its easily aided cracks and plentiful fixed gear.) "I had a skin break on the ski in and had to carry my skis, and Stanley broke an aider jugging," Wharton said. "And skis were a mistake in general, because we had to descend the Camel gully to Chasm Lake on the way down, to retrieve our skis, instead of just running out the trail."

In fact, Wharton said, their time of 10 hours and change "isn't really all that great, actually. Sub-8 hours would be really good, and sub-6 might require training and very good conditions. I actually texted Joe Mills our time, to inspire him to get up there. I hope he does, as these sorts of things are kind of silly, but can be damn fun!"

Date of ascent: March 14, 2014

Source: Josh Wharton