By Jill Wheeler, MA, LMHC, co-founder/director of Wellfit Institute
The Diamond—the east face of Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) that has a 900-foot vertical gain at a 13,000-foot elevation—has been on my radar for years. It is prominent both in the minds and on the maps of climbers worldwide.
There was a time, a little more than a decade ago, that I personally guided a different alpine multi-pitch route in RMNP, Le Petit Grepon. Just days before I had to test-lead climb that route, there had been a fatality. A gnarly, bloody swathe of mortality painted the route, and, at that moment, I told my mock-client, “I don’t want to do this for a living.”
It was at that moment that I experienced a visceral response to death that I had never felt before and realized that as much as I loved climbing, I didn’t want the stain of someone else’s blood on my belay hands. My desire to guide alpine routes also died on that route, but my sense of adventure never waned.
Years have passed and, even though I am no longer the climber I was, I am still a good climber, and I love being outdoors. Not too long ago, I judged myself when I saw the diminishing returns of my skills, as soft tissue damage, injuries, and lifestyle changes took over. I nearly abandoned climbing because, I thought, if I wasn’t getting better, I wasn’t going to do it at all. Then I made the ultimate decisions: I married a non-climber and became a suburban housewife and mother of two. But, ever the fierce advocate of outdoor adventure, I returned to my outdoor roots and recently co-founded a small wellness, fitness, and adventure company. And, climbing The Diamond had remained on my bucket list, even if I had to hire a guide for the trip.
Why am I sharing all of this now? This summer on a vacation to Boulder, Colorado, I finally summited The Diamond, but as a client—not as a guide—and I finally came to terms with who and what I am now.
Ascending The Diamond as a client has changed my entire outlook of climbing and my attitude toward those who hire professionals. Now that I have been a climbing client, I can better relate to my own clients, the ones who have hired me over the years, to guide their adventures and wilderness experiences. I have a renewed compassion towards my clientele, whether they are women’s group members, yoga students, or retreat guests.
Climbing The Diamond reaffirmed the most essential aspect of climbing, the human component. In climbing, a bond—a contract—is created between two people, regardless of skill level, and there is a trust that each climber has the other’s back and is willing to face fear, wind, rain, lightening, laughter, excitement, peace, and bliss.
For this one adventure, I enjoyed every moment of not being in charge of anything, not my business, not my children, and not my household. Amidst the vastness of the alpine, I found an inner peace akin to heaven and allowed myself to be taken care of, and to be humbled.
The concept of being led, and being humbled, is like a first ascent to me. I’ve realized that adventure doesn’t mean I have to be in charge. I have learned that being “cool” has little to do with being a lead climber and that humility means relinquishing control and having nothing to prove.
The Diamond specs:
– 6,000 feet of vertical
– A 300’ snowy, rocky ascent requires sturdy gear. Crampons, check. Ice Axe, check.
– 900’ of vertical rock climbing over six (linked) pitches
– Number of 200’ rappels: 9
– Glissade snow descent
– An exciting, wet, and electric hike down
– Total hours hiking and climbing car-to-car: 18
I highly recommend Rainbow Weinstock, AMGA (American Mountain Guide Association), certified guide at Colorado Mountain School. CMS is the largest guide service in Colorado and has more certified guides than any other guide service in the state. They are the only climbing company subcontracted by Rocky Mountain National Park.
Jill Wheeler, MA, LMHC, co-founder/director of Wellfit Institute, is a psychotherapist, yoga instructor, and adventurer. Wellfit Institute is a wellness/fitness/adventure company based in Naples, Florida, that offers meaningful and growth-oriented experiences to live a more purposeful life. When not on an adventure, you’ll find Jill on a paddleboard teaching yoga, running, or kiteboarding. She lives life to the fullest with her two young daughters and husband. Find more from stories and tips from Jill Wheeler on her Wellfit blog and through her Twitter feed, @WellfitJill.