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Soloing the Diamond: A Photo Essay

Peter Mortimer filming Steph Davis free soloing Pervertical Sanctuary (IV 5.10c, FFA: Adams-Sorenson, 1975), the Diamond, Long’s Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Davis and Mortimer will be attending The 2008 Alpinist Film Festival to present the world premiere of “Diamonds are Forever,” Mortimer’s short film that resulted from this footage. [Photo] Brian Kimball

On October 15, 2007, Alpinist reported on Steph Davis’s four free solo ascents of the Diamond, Long’s Peak (14,255′), Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. Davis climbed the 900-foot face via the Casual Route (IV 5.10-, Ferguson-Reveley, 1977) twice and Pervertical Sanctuary (IV 5.10c, FFA: Adams-Sorenson, 1975) twice during the summer of 2007. In doing she became the first woman to free solo the Diamond and the second person to free solo Pervertical, her ropeless predecessor the lionized free soloist Derek Hersey.

Perhaps more impressive is that Davis’s solos were captured by a small photo and video team that included Peter Mortimer (of “Verite Bites” fame, Issue 17) and Brian Kimball, who with Davis were kind enough to share their thoughts and images in this Feature.

Mortimer and Davis will be at The 2008 Alpinist Film Festival to present the world premiere of “Diamonds are Forever,” a short film birthed from the Diamond footage.

From the Film Maker

On a warm Saturday in September I found out that Steph Davis was planning to solo Pervertical Sanctuary on The Diamond the next morning. I canceled my previous plans and packed up my gear.

By the time I got to Chasm View around 7 a.m. Steph was already 1/3 up the route. Gasping for air, I planted my tripod and ripped off some of the wildest pullout shots of my life as she glided up the thousand-foot vertical wall.

A week and a snowstorm later we went back to shoot close-ups. Local hardman Brian Kimball spent a day fixing 1,500 feet of static line. The next morning Brian and I jugged and shot as Steph climbed Pervertical for the second time. Seeing it up-close was more nerve-wracking. Lots of hard 5.10 moves at 13,000+ feet. Tons of exposure. I was glad when we all arrived safely on Table Ledge.

Three interviews and a trip to Moab later, I’ve put together a short film that intends to capture the adventurous spirit of Steph’s climbing. Premiering “Diamonds are Forever” to a packed house of drunken, rowdy mountain lovers in Jackson, WY is the ultimate test for this kind of film. As with every year, I look forward to the Alpinist Film Festival–one of the great celebrations of the mountains!

–Peter Mortimer

Steph free soloing Pervertical. [Photo] Brian Kimball

From the Soloist

This summer, learning to skydive and free solo on the Diamond, was a really powerful experience. It was a time of rebirth.

It may sound strange, but it was as though a period of my life was ending this spring. At first I was grieving for the past and very lost, but eventually I had to learn how to let go, and I entered a new life. So that’s what the Diamond solos meant for me this summer: finding my way to that rebirth, to the next place in my life. I found release, and total freedom. Now I can fly, literally…

–Steph Davis,

“I took this photo on the very last pitch of the Casual Route, the second time I climbed it. I was scrambling left on ledges, just below Table Ledge, on pretty easy terrain. I happened to glance down, and I thought ‘That’s some good exposure!’ You can see all the way down to Mills Glacier and Chasm Lake.” [Photo] Steph Davis

“The first thing I did on the Diamond this summer was go and climb Kiener’s, the easy mountaineering route, to check out conditions and have a good hiking day. It made a nice loop excursion, up Kiener’s on the left side of the Diamond, over the top, and then down the North Face descent on the right side of the Diamond. After I scramble down the North Face, I get to the Chasm View overlook, with this spectacular view of the Diamond’s face. I shot this photo of climbers on the traverse pitch of the Casual Route, thinking that would be my first goal, to solo the Casual.” [Photo] Steph Davis

Peter and Steph on Table Ledge. [Photo] Brian Kimball

Davis rests after 250 feet of sustained crux climbing on Pervertical. [Photo] Brian Kimball

“I was hiking up to solo the Casual Route the second time, and it was super windy, so I was procrastinating as I hiked, wondering if it was too windy to go up there. I stopped at the top of the trail junction and took some photos. I ended up going all the way, finding the winds calm enough even though the storm clouds rolled in.” [Photo] Steph Davis

Resting on a ledge 800′ from the floor. [Photo] Brian Kimball

“I was jumping my wingsuit out of an airplane a lot this summer, at Mile Hi Drop Zone in Longmont, Colorado, where I learned to skydive. Once I started skydiving and flying a wingsuit, I knew I wanted, one day, to BASE jump off the big cliffs of this world.” [Photo] Steph Davis collection

“I jump the Tombstone almost every day here in Moab. It’s a 400-foot jump off one of my favorite cliffs–only three miles from our house, and a beautiful half hour walk to the top. When you land, you are right by your car, so it couldn’t be more convenient. I love the Tombstone, and have learned so much from jumping it over and over again.” [Photo] Dean S. Potter

“My BASE progression was a little backward–you ‘should’ jump first off bridges (which I did, in Idaho) and then do terminal jumps (where you reach terminal speed in the air) off very tall cliffs. This is safer, because you have more time before impact. Since I was in Moab all October and November, my first cliff jumps were the low Moab cliffs. But I was invited to Poland for a film festival in December, and planned the opportunity to visit Monte Brento in Italy, one of the best terminal BASE cliffs in the world. I did my first terminal jumps there and felt confident enough to make my first wingsuit BASE jumps. I never imagined this summer when I started skydiving at Mile Hi that in only a few more months I would be jumping off a giant cliff in a wingsuit!”
[Photo] Steph Davis collection