10/9/14 - In the latest stage of a back-and-forth speed contest between two pairs of Colorado-based climbers, Scott Bennett and Brad Gobright have gone under 25 minutes for climbing and descending the classic Naked Edge route in Eldorado Canyon.
To be more specific, it was 24 minutes 57 seconds for a round-trip from the bridge across South Boulder Creek: a short hike leading to a three-pitch scramble (up to 5.8), five techy face pitches (mostly 5.10 and low 5.11), another scramble off the top of the route and down the fourth-class East Slabs, and a sprint down the steep climbers' trail and back to the bridge. For most people the Naked Edge (5.11b) is a half- to full-day route—if not a dream climb.
Bennett and Gobright broke their own record of 26:16 for the route, which they set on September 24. That time was just 17 seconds faster than the mark established in August by Stefan Griebel and Jason Wells, the other team in what has become a remarkably friendly rivalry, with each team cheering the other on and even timing the record-breaking efforts.
As recently as May 2012, the fastest known time for this round trip was still around 50 minutes (49:44, Griebel-Wells). Eight months later, Bennett and Gobright carved five minutes out of that time, finishing in 44 minutes. Since then the two pairs have steadily whittled away at the record, to the point where they are now going about twice as fast as they were just two and a half years ago.
The climbers free-solo the approach to the route and simul-climb the rest, with a rack pared to the absolute minimum (plus occasional fixed pro along the route). Both teams obviously have the route completely wired (they often do a warm-up lap before going for a record run), but any sort of speed climbing at this level has its risks.
"It is certainly more dangerous than a slow ascent, but I don't think the climbing risks are huge," Griebel says. "Certainly smaller than the risks taken on the Nose! Anyplace the leader is likely to fall is a pretty clean fall, except for the Bombay Chimney pitch, which the follower can see and keep slack out of the system [to protect the leader]. And the way Jason and I climb it, the follower (or leader, really) is protected by Micro Traxions at all the cruxes.
"The most dangerous part is probably descending the East Slabs quickly," Griebel added. "But the round-trip, bridge-to-bridge time is half of what makes this thing so fun. You don't have to be an Alex Honnold–caliber climber or a Kilian Jornet–caliber scrambler and runner to do well. Just moderately good at both!"
Griebel and Wells hope to try to take back the record within the next two weeks.
This trailer for an upcoming film by Sparkshop Media shows Bennett and Gobright during their September 24 run on the route:
Date of latest record: October 8, 2014
Sources: Stefan Griebel, Mountain Project, Bill Wright