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In 1959, with the Diamond closed to all climbing for safety reasons, the Lower East Face of Longs Peak was the "next best thing" for the hungry Boulder climbing community to focus on. After considerable effort over that summer, Ray Northcutt and Layton Kor established "The Diagonal" route at V 5.9 A3. Not only was The Diagonal the first Grade V rock climb in Colorado, it was a watershed event in Colorado climbing history, and led directly to the lifting of the climbing ban on the Diamond. (The following summer, Californians Bob Kamps and Dave Rearick succeeded on the central plumb-line crack system on the Diamond, and fittingly named their route "Diamond One", or D1 as it is now called. Ironically, Kor, who wanted badly to make the first ascent of the Diamond, was off climbing in Yosemite Valley at the time.) Although aid was used by Northcutt and Kor on the Diagonal, according to Fricke's 1971 RMNP guidebook the route developed a reputation for difficult and sustained freeclimbing, and was thus unpopular.
By the early 1970s the climbing paradigm had shifted to freeclimbing the remaining aid routes, and as one of the best "lines" in the RMNP The Diagonal came back into the spotlight. The result was "The Directagonal", a challenging free variation to The Diagonal which follows the general line and creatively bypasses the rappel done by Northcutt and Kor on the first ascent. The Directagonal crystalizes all the elements of "adventure rock climbing" into one memorable sojourn: excellent climbing (though often wet at the crux), inobvious route finding, some fractured flakes, vegetation in the cracks, runouts, nice exposure, a complicated descent...all above 13,000' and in one of the most dramatic alpine locales in the lower 48. A spectacular route!
The route follows to half-height the obvious left-angling diagonal crack system that defines the central section of the Lower East Face, then traverses right into a large left-facing corner system which leads to Broadway.
P1: Begin at the base of the diagonal crack, and climb a short, cold, harsh 15 feet of 5.10d. Continue to the higher of two small ledges on the left and belay (2 old bolts that need to be replaced).
P2: Step back right into the crack system and scrape upwards on (usually) wet rock past a difficult section (5.11a, adequate pro), then easier rock to an alcove below large overhangs.
P3: Climb through the overhang at 5.9+ or so, then after 30 feet hand traverses right at a large flake system (really fun) to a cramped belay stance at a right-facing corner system.
P4: This is perhaps the routefinding crux. Climb directly above the belay (in and just right of the corner) for a short way, then move up and right to a traverse at a bulge/overhang. The traverse is 5.9, often a little wet, and does not protect well at all. Now climb a crack system to a nice stance (this stance is where the Northcutt/Kor rappel ended). A long pitch.
P5: Climb a short step to a single bolt, then move right to a tight left-facing corner (crux, excellent pro, often wet) that leads to the perrenially wet left-facing corner (5.10d, hand-size cams). Belay on a small stance on the left. Watch your ropes hanging from this belay, as there is a rope-eating loose flake 30 feet below.
P6: Now tackle the "old school 5.9" corner and flake system above, stepping right at the top to belay on the slopes of Broadway.
To exit, traverse right on Broadway (often snow and ice, loose rock) to the rappel line down Crack of Delight, or follow the lead of Roger Briggs and Australian Kim Carrigan and continue with the complete Yellow Wall (1980, all free, 14 hours). I would wear a helmet on the Directagonal, since a lot of rocks come whizzing by from above (consider avoiding this and all Lower East Face routes on high season weekends since there is so much traffic directly above). Although a Grade IV, it may take a full day for some parties. Some sections of this route (the 5.9 traverse in particular) have mandatory free climbing that could not be aided in a rain storm. There are (as of August 2000) slings at all belay stances, and it would be possible to rappel from most anywhere on the route, though above pitch 4 this may be problematic. The 5.10d corner above the crux is almost always wet, and in wet years the 5.11 corner (and much of the route) will be a challenge to free climb. Probably best as a late season climb when things may be at their driest. Early season (June to mid-July) there may be more seepage, but, really, the plumbing on the East Cirque of Longs is a mystery.
A suggested (perhaps excessive) rack: a double set RPs to 3" cams, one each 3.5" and 4" cam, with extra wired nuts. Nut tool for leader to clean out gear placements. Two ropes required if you rap from Broadway. Helmet!!!
Bill Briggs following the first pitch.
High on the first pitch.
Bill leading the second pitch.
|By Anonymous Coward|
Jul 12, 2002
RE: The Lower East Face of Long's Peak
Has anyone recently (5 years) free-climbed _Endless Summer_, which is the free version of _Question Mark_? Fixed gear (bolts) was missing when I last looked. Please provide details. Has this been reverted to an aid climb?
Has anyone recently free-climbed _Slippery People_, which begins way right of the aforementioned routes? Comments?
Have either / both been freed to Broadway?
|By Anonymous Coward|
Jul 15, 2002
Correct me if I'm wrong. P1 is 10 hands and then belays atop the flake / block. P2: we climbed 20-25' of delicate face climbing looking for deliverance and neither came across nor could see any pins / bolts above, while the climbing look to be sustained and difficult. Felt like we were toeing the Factor 2 fall on 10+ / 11 terrain. We craned our necks and scoured the face for steel. Nothing. Down we went...gracefully.
Is it possible the first pin / bolt is 45+ feet out? Dicey with a big D! This would seem way out of character w/ the remainder of the route and the FFA team. Other than the FFA ('90), which year(s) have people climbed this? Mr. Gillett, please chime-in if you can.
|By Bernard Gillett|
Jul 15, 2002
I think AC is talking about Endless Summer, if I'm not mistaken. I've climbed neither that route, nor Slippery People, so I can't help out except to say that I seem to recall whisperings of removed fixed gear on the second pitch a few years ago. I think the initial fixed gear was a pin or two, maybe a fixed wire, and the first bolt (whether it is still there) was a good distance up the pitch. Realize, though, that all of the info I provided for these routes in my guide came from other sources (originally an article in an old Rock and Ice -- too lazy to fish it out and find the issue number for you -- and then later I'm sure I looked at Rossiter's topo to corroborate info).
Is the "Jonny" in Steve's comment Jonny Cop (Copp?)? The same guy who finished a route I started a month ago on... well, I'll keep it a secret for the moment -- on that wall up there? If so, I'd love to hear the details. Send me an email if you have the time.
|By Dougald MacDonald|
Sep 7, 2002
Back to Directagonal for a moment:
This route was almost completely dry in early September, and in these conditions it is definitely 3-star. Superb, varied climbing with adequate pro. Couple of comments on gear: Someone could do a huge public service by replacing a couple of anchor bolts (one at each bolted anchor) and the pro bolt on pitch 5. The pro on pitch 4 isn't too bad with a fistful of RPs and the smallest Aliens -- no individual piece seems that great on the crux traverse, but you get so many in that you feel like something will hold. Also, we took Steve's gear list to mean at least a double set of cams up to 3 inches plus two larger pieces. This seemed like overkill (again, allowing for dry conditions). I would take double set of wires (including RPs) and a single set of cams from the smallest Alien or TCU to 3 camalot, with a few extras in the smaller sizes. Scariest part of this climb was some stacks of big loose plates on pitches 4 and 6 -- you have to tread lightly. All in all, I highly recommend this one IF you wait for it to dry out. Heads-up, highly rewarding climbing.
|By Anonymous Coward|
Sep 11, 2002
Steve, just found this note of yours. Yeah, the flute's echo is wild in the cirque huh? Re Slippery People: great route. the first pitch off the midway ledge is a bit spicy because you have to pull down above an old blade (may be best to place another blade in there). We freed up the route at 5.12a/b. Incredible edges at the crux. And, Re the Endless Summer: someone must have replaced the pins. This summer it was good! Sorry if I'm putting this note in the wrong area. Newby. Jonny Copp
|By Nate Christiansen|
Jul 2, 2003
Just curious if anyone has climbed Diagonal or the direct this summer. I was up there 6/28 and the route looked relatively dry(at least for the first 400').
|By Kevin Stricker|
From: Evergreen, CO
Sep 9, 2005
As of 9/9/05 all 8 of the bolts on this route have been replaced with ASCA stainless steel hardware. All of the anchors have been reworked so that the route can easily be rappelled at any point before reaching Broadway. The route is currently almost completely dry, and most of the belays are protected from rockfall and weather. Now would be the perfect time to get up there and have an adventure!