Women Break Speed Records for El Cap, Half Dome


During a single week in mid-June, Heidi Wirtz and Vera Schulte-Pelkum smashed the women's-team speed records for climbing Leaning Tower, Half Dome and El Capitan. Over a nine-day period, the highly dynamic duo climbed Astroman, the first four pitches of the Nose (twice), Leaning Tower, Half Dome and El Cap. The two climbed the West Face of Leaning Tower on June 17 in 5 hours 15 minutes. Two days later, they did the Regular Route on Half Dome in 5 hours 19 minutes, and on June 23 they climbed the Nose in 12 hours 15 minutes. The previous all-women's records for El Capitan and Half Dome are thought to be 16 hours 30 minutes and 9 hours 45 minutes, respectively, both set by Abby Watkins and Vera Wong in 1996. (Something about the name Vera?) Wirtz and Schulte-Pelkum had planned to attempt linking Half Dome and the Nose in a day, and had used their superb week as "training," but Schulte-Pelkum ran out of time and had to return to her home in Colorado. A week later, "Heidi Almighty" set off to free-climb the Regular Route on Half Dome, but at mid-hieght a violent storm thwarted the ascent. She plans to head back to the Valley this fall.