Sometimes climbers and their achievements are so remarkable they make my job easy; they leave no doubt I will write about them. My last column about Madaleine Sorkin climbing the world’s hardest high-altitude free route, was one of these.
Now I’ve been gifted another, on the same vertical stage — the nearly 1,000-foot tall granite wall called the Diamond on Longs Peak — but on a different extreme route: The Honeymoon Is Over (5.13c). Of its 8 pitches, 3 are rated 5.13. Each of these boasts insecure movement on tiny holds, plus short, powerful sections that require poise as much as power.
This rarely climbed route had seen just one female ascent, by Sorkin, in 2016. But this summer 3 local women — Amity Warme, Lynn Anderson and Katie Kelble — stormed the climb, working both independently and together. While Amity, the veteran of the trio at 29, had plenty of 5.13 big-wall experience, Lynn and Katie ventured way beyond their previous limits.
After back-to-back success on Longs Peak’s shorter routes Sarchasm (5.14a) and Barnacle Scars (5.13, a first ascent with Josh Wharton) earlier this summer, Amity made the second female ascent of The Honeymoon. Though it wasn’t without its challenges.
On Aug. 1 she and her husband, Connor, endured a frightening thunderstorm that moved in earlier than predicted. “There was thunder, lightning and painful results for like 40 minutes,” said Amity. During the storm they fought up the wall to find shelter. Afterward, she said, “I don’t want to be on the Diamond anymore this season. I’m over it.”
But when Amity learned that Lynn, 25, and Katie, 17, were going up three days later, she couldn’t stay away. “The girl crew was super motivated,” she said. “I got pretty psyched on it that day.” Amity rehearsed the route throughout August, despite poor weather and perpetually wet rock.
Then, on Aug. 28, she battled cold, slippery rock and another hailstorm to find herself on the final hard move of the wall: a leftward jump to an edge. Amity leapt toward the hold and stuck it as her body swung wildly. “I heard and felt this tearing sensation in my shoulder,” she said. Yet somehow she held on. With partially torn ligaments she topped out the Diamond for a hard-won, if bittersweet, success.
Just three days later, Lynn, who has only been climbing seriously for three years, became the third woman to free The Honeymoon. She knew Katie had planned to try it, so they decided to check it out as a team on July 9.
Lynn committed every weekend thereafter to The Honeymoon, regardless of the weather. She often worked alone, trying moves on toprope. “Sometimes it was so cool to be up there dangling around, lost in the route, figuring out (moves),” she said. “And other times I was like, ‘Ahhh it’s so lonely, I wish other people were up here.’ And when Katie or Amity was up there, I was like, ‘Ohh this is so fun!’”
On her second lead attempt, Lynn dug deep to free the route with Katie belaying and supporting her effort. Incredibly, they celebrated her success by spending another cold, windy night beneath the Diamond so they could swap roles the very next day for Katie’s first lead attempt.
Katie fell several times, then got sick halfway up. Dehydrated and exhausted, she threw up on top. “It was, you know … character building,” Katie said, laughing.
Undeterred, she returned three days later, with John Ebers supporting. “My goal going into the day was to have a good time and not suffer,” she said. Though she didn’t free it, Katie fared far better this time. “I was just excited to be there, and excited to be on top,” she said. “I realized it’s OK if I don’t send this year because I still had a really good time and learned a lot.”
Regardless of “success” or “failure,” all three women on The Honeymoon this summer prioritized improvement and camaraderie. Above all, their belief in themselves and dedication to each other fashioned a synergy that elevated each climber to extraordinary heights.
Contact Chris Weidner at [email protected]. Follow him on Instagram @christopherweidner and Twitter @cweidner8.