Speed Climbing & Linkups!
Speed climbing is not really something I have ever really wanted to focus on… However, I find the mens speed record of around 2 and a half hours incredible and I do enjoy the feeling of moving fast. I started becoming inspired to set a new women’s speed record on the Nose when I was in the Valley last Fall and discovered that the long standing speed record was barely even speed climbing – 12.15 hours! I felt that this was almost an embarrassment…
That Fall, last September two good girl friends of mine, Chantel Astorga and Libby Sauter managed to take almost two hours off this time. Setting a new record 10.40 hours… A very good time, but I still felt confident that I could do it faster and wanted to try. Then earlier this year in Spring 2012 the record was broken again by two girls from Colorado - Jes Meiris and Quinn Brett, who climber the Nose in 10.19 hours.
At the start of this year I had discussed teaming up with Libby to set a new record, and she had also made plans to do the linkup of the Nose and Half Dome. However, unfortunately Libby broke her leg in June. So, with her encouragement I asked Chantel to climb the Nose with me – to set a new speed record and then do the linkup – El Cap and Half Dome in under 24 hours, a feat which has never been completed by an all female team…
Chantel and I arrived in the Valley on the evening of the 17th, then did a practice run up the Nose on the 19th. During this climb it felt like we made a ton of errors and also had to pass 5 parties on the lower part of the wall. Both of us felt like we were going super slow and that our ascent was a bit of a shit-show… So were very surprised when we reached the top in 10.10 hours – Setting a new record on our practice run!
The following few days were spent analyzing our ascent, coming up with better beta and resting up… Preparing physically and mentally for our next attempt, which was also going to include Half Dome.
After a less than average nights sleep, we started climbing the Nose at 3.10am. Everything flowed super smoothly on the Nose – there was no one else on the route (other than one party that passed before they left camp 6) and the adjustments we had made to our beta worked perfectly. It was one those rare occasions where everything worked perfectly for both of us. As a result, we surprised ourselves (and everyone else) by breaking our previous record by almost 3 hours. Climbing the Nose in 7.26 hours – A much better time than either of us expected!
At the top of the Nose we still felt great, but by the time we had hiked down, eaten some lunch, then done the grueling hike up the Death Slabs to Half Dome, tiredness was definitely setting in. We started up the Regular route at 4.25pm. Simul-climbing the whole lower half of the route, with Chantel in the lead. Then when we got to the Chimneys I took over the lead and short-fixed to the top… We were moving slower than we had hoped on Half Dome - Fatigue was definitely setting in, but still made the top at 11.19pm, 20.09 hours after starting the Nose! After almost 7 hours with only a few shot blocks and a couple sips of water, I had nothing in reserve… When Chantel joined me on the top of Half Dome I finally broke down and curled up in a heap, shedding tears of exhaustion and relief.
The last part of the day, the epic descent to the Valley Floor was the hardest part of the day, but so worth the effort! We arrived back in the Valley floor after 23.35 hours on the go – Completing not only the fasted female time up El Capitan, but also the first female linkup of El Cap and Half Dome.