Friday, November 05, 2010
The Need For Speed
As November rolls around most of the climbing world starts to shut down and prep for winter. This isn’t as true as it once was. Climbing is now a specified and world-wide sport, and opportunities exist for perfect conditions on every single day of the year if you’re willing to travel. But the majority of the world’s most famous climbs are still in the mountains of the northern hemisphere, where the onset of winter changes the game. But as the prime venues empty out a small crew of dedicated specialists remain. This Friday’s psyche post is about a tiny portion of the crew: the speed climbers.
Cold weather produces what climbers call “sending temps”, where the skin/friction co-efficient improves and muscular breakdown is slowed. It’s an obvious time for the sport climbers and boulderers, whose ascents take mere minutes, to excel. But today there’s a new breed of big wall climber—the speed climber—who has reduced the game of big wall climbing to that of running a marathon—who also looks at the frigid November air as an opportunity for one last shot of adrenaline.
I blogged on the history of speed climbing on Yosemite’s El Capitan a couple of years back when my friend Hans was coming out of retirement in an attempt to regain a speed record he’d held for years. Essentially, major walls that once took weeks, and even months, to climb have been whittled down to the point where well conditioned climbers often do them in a day. And at the pinnacle of the sport are a handful of superstars who train like Olympians and can fly up a few thousand feet of supremely technical rock in a few hours.
Below is a comment Hans added to my blog on the anniversary of their record. Looks like his old “rival” Dean Potter is after it again. Unfortunately, since the El Cap report has packed it in for the season we can no longer follow, we’ll have to settle for this preview of the Huber Bros film. Get after it, lads!
Hey, we got the record on July 2nd 2008 at 2:43:33. Not to settle for "just beating the Hubers" we went back in October and dropped it down to 2:37:05 . Today is two years to the day since we got the record. It still stands as far as I know. I heard Sean Leary and Dean Potter are working on breaking it, with their best time down around 3 hours. Go Sean and Dean!