5/18/12 - Colorado's Eldorado Canyon, one of the centers of free climbing in the 1970s, rarely makes national news these days. But two pairs of climbers have showed that it's still a place for pushing boundaries.
On Wednesday, Stefan Griebel and Jason Wells set an amazing speed record for climbing and descending the classic Naked Edge (5.11). After quickly climbing the route together earlier in the day, the two decided to go for an all-out speed attempt the same afternoon. The previous fastest known road-to-road time was 1 hour 13 minutes: starting at the bridge across South Boulder Creek, soloing the two or three approach pitches (up to 5.8), simul-climbing the six-pitch route (5.11a, 5.10b, 5.8, 5.11b, 5.11b, 5.6), and then descending the long, exposed third-class ramps and steep trail back to the bridge.
"Not knowing which end of the bridge to start the timer on, we split the difference and started it from the middle," Griebel said. From then, it was flat out: "We took off running, me with the rope pre-flaked on my back and my climbing shoes on, Jason in flip-flops with the rack flip-flopping around everywhere." The two soloed to the start of the first pitch of the Edge, about 250 feet off the ground, and Wells had begun leading just eight minutes after they left the bridge.
At the top of the second pitch, Wells fed the rope through an ascender clipped to the anchor to prevent Griebel from pulling him off if he fell, and then both men began simul-climbing. Wells clipped another ascender to the anchor above the fourth pitch and kept going. "When I was about halfway through the 5.8 (third pitch), Jason was on the top scramble, the rope was tight, and I climbed as fast as I could… arriving at the top breathing like a freight train, but with a huge grin—we were both standing on top 31 minutes after he started the lead," Griebel said.
The two scrambled down the East Slabs and pounded down the trail, Griebel's toes "screaming in my climbing shoes." They stopped the watch in the middle of the bridge at 49 minutes 44 seconds, nearly 25 minutes faster than the previous mark.
One day later, Hans Florine and Bill Wright, co-authors of the how-to book Speed Climb!, set out to realize a long-time goal of Wright's: climbing 100 Eldo pitches in a day.
The two started at 4:15 a.m. on Wind Tower and knocked out 25 pitches of easy climbing in two hours. Then they moved onto the longer and harder routes of Redgarden Wall, working their way to the west through classics like Anthill Direct, T2, Yellow Spur, and Rewritten. They had fixed four ropes to speed the descents, and in all they did about 30 rappels plus down-climbs to link the routes. They finished with the Bastille Crack, returning to the car just before 8 p.m., after a total of about 10,000 vertical feet of climbing.
Most of the climbing was 5.8 or under, and Wright led 97 of the 100 pitches, with the considerably stronger Florine (who was less likely to fall) coming behind as they were simul-climbing. "Doing this with Hans is cheating to be sure, but I cheat with all my partners, as they are way stronger and better than I am," Wright said.
It was a record number of pitches for Florine as well. He had previously climbed 78 pitches in a day, but on a considerably bigger cliff: when he linked the Nose, Lurking Fear, and the West Face of El Capitan, the first time El Cap had been climbed three times in a day.
Dates of Ascents: May 16 and 17, 2012
Sources: Stefan Griebel, Bill Wright