Best American Adventures: Climb the Diamond on Longs Peak


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By Doug Schnitzspahn; Photograph by Kennan Harvey, Aurora Photos

In general, Colorado’s famed fourteeners—the
state’s 54 peaks over 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) tall—are pretty easy
to climb. This makes the east face of 14,259-foot (4,346-meter) Longs
Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park, which serves up the biggest
buffet of multipitch, big-wall routes this side of Yosemite, even more
of a prize. The east face’s sheer, 2,000-foot-high (609-meter-high)
Diamond is a true, big mountain adventure that requires confidence in
climbing 5.10 rock and the guts to sleep out in a portaledge.

you do not seek that gritty of a challenge, there are easier options on
the east face, such as the 5.4 Kieners route, a classic alpine climb
that wends around the south side of the Diamond and takes advantage of
a snow-filled couloir. But it is the hard rock routes on the Diamond
that bring alpinists here from across the globe. The most popular way
up, the Casual Route (5.10a), is still quite committing. Plus, the 5.10
crux of the Casual Route is near the top so you need to keep your
energy in reserve.

For even greater challenges, King of Swords
(5.12a) is a tough, overhanging route, and Eroica (5.12b), which runs
next to the Casual Route, provides continuous 5.11 climbing with two
cruxes at 5.12. Technical talk aside, the Diamond may be the very best
place in the Lower 48 to test your big-wall mettle with a guide before
you move on to even bigger mountains. Of course there’s certainly no
shame in the Diamond being the apex of your rock-climbing achievements.

Need to Know: Colorado Mountain School ( will guide you up the Diamond on one- or two-day trips, from $475.


  1. Nathan Welton
    November 5, 2010, 1:22 pm

    I’m an Estes Park local and finally climbed The Diamond the first time a few months ago. We only did the Casual Route, but it was an absolutely fantastic day out. Couldn’t believe the crowds, though — pretty nuts. I think there were 25 climbers on the wall that day.

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  5. Hai
    February 25, 2012, 8:07 am

    Doug Schnitzspahn,you guys are not only professional in adventures but also skillful in writing.Every detail is very impressive.Great for local adventurers like us to learn.