9/26/12 – Chantel Astorga and Mayan Smith-Gobat destroyed the all-female speed record for climbing The Nose of El Capitan, completing the iconic Yosemite Valley route in 7 hours, 26 minutes. Their ascent took nearly 3 hours off the previous female team’s record. They then continued to the other end of the Valley to climb the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome, completing the link-up (the first ever for two women) in a total of 20 hours 9 minutes.
Astorga and Smith-Gobat began climbing at 3:10 a.m., hoping to do much of the route out of the sun. They led the 31 guidebook pitches in five blocks, with Smith-Gobat taking most of the free climbing and Astorga leading the pitches with more aid. The rack was a double set of cams, with singles in the smaller units and an extra 0.75 Camalot, plus a few wires and a couple of cam hooks for speedy aid. They topped out at 10:36 a.m., to the cheers of a small crowd that had gathered in El Cap Meadow below.
After hiking down, they drove to Curry Village, biked to the Mirror Lake trailhead, and then hiked about an hour and three-quarters up the Death Slabs approach to the foot of Half Dome. On top of El Cap, “we had still felt great,” Smith-Gobat said, “but by the time we had hiked down, eaten some lunch, then done the grueling hike up to Half Dome, tiredness was definitely setting in.”
They started up the Regular Northwest Face at 4:25 p.m. and simul-climbed the first half of the route, with Astorga in the lead. Then Smith-Gobat took over the lead, short-fixing the more technical pitches on the upper route so the two could continue to move together. “We were moving slower than we had hoped on Half Dome, but still made the top at 11:19 p.m.,” Smith-Gobat said.
“At the top of Half Dome I hit the wall,” she added. “I had barely eaten or drunken anything during our ascent of Half Dome and had no reserves left. As soon as Chantel joined me on top, I could not do anything other than curl up in a ball and cry for a few seconds. However, after eating some food I was ready to go again. I felt like 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 after 23 hours and 35 minutes on the go.”
The women’s speed record on The Nose has been dropping steadily in the past year. Astorga and Libby Sauter had set a new mark last fall, climbing the route in 10 hours 40 minutes. (The previous record had been over 12 hours.) Then, in June, Quinn Brett and Jes Meiris climbed the route in 10:19. Last week, Astorga and Gobat-Smith broke that barrier during a “practice run” on The Nose, climbing it in 10:10. (Smith-Gobat was no stranger to El Cap; last fall, she became the second woman, after Steph Davis, to lead every pitch of the Salathé Wall (5.13b) all free.) When the two women went all out on Sunday, the results were astonishing—they reduced their own speed record by more than 25 percent!
Date of Ascents: September 23, 2012
Sources: Mayan Smith-Gobat, climbing.com, elcapreport.com