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Young Guns Break The Naked Edge Speed Record

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The Naked Edge climbs the pictured left arete of Redgarden Wall’s Tower Two (the high-left tower).F Delventhal/Flickr; CC BY 2.0

The Naked Edge speed record is often considered to be the great race of climbing in Colorado’s Front Range, like a miniature version of the Nose on El Capitan. Located in Eldorado Canyon, The Naked Edge is 460 feet of 5.11 trad climbing, involving thin cracks, techy faces, a tiring chimney, and wild exposure. The race begins on the south side of the bridge over South Boulder Creek, where climbers make the short jog to the base of the wall, solo the 5.8 approach pitch, ascend The Naked Edge, make a daring sprint down the fourth-class East Slabs descent, and recross the bridge. Last week, Colorado climbers John Ebers and Ben Wilbur set a new speed record of 24 minutes and 14 seconds, eyewitnesses Jason Antin and Wade Morris reported on Instagram.

It took climbing legend Layton Kor multiple attempts over the course of two years to make the first ascent of The Naked Edge using aid tactics in the 1960s. The route was freed in 1971 by Jim Erickson and Duncan Ferguson. Twenty years later, the bridge-to-bridge race began with Micheal Gilbert and Rob Slater clocking a time of 1 hour 38 minutes.

Throughout the years, parties would periodically shave minutes off of the record, though things really started heating up in the 2010s when two teams went head to head, pushing each other for faster and faster times. In 2012, Stefan Griebel and Jason Wells made the first bridge-to-bridge lap in under an hour with a time of 49 minutes 44 seconds. The following year, Brad Gobright and Scott Bennett beat that time with 44 minutes. Thus a friendly rivalry was born.

Over the course of the next several years, the teams passed the record back and forth, first shaving minutes, then seconds off the time. In 2015, Griebel and Wells set the bar high with a blazing-fast 24 minute 29 second lap. Since then, Jason Wells and Brad Gobright have both perished in tragic climbing accidents, each team losing a member, and a chapter of The Naked Edge speed record coming to a close.

Enter young and thirsty climbers John Ebers and Ben Wilbur. Both have impressive trad resumes, which include all-free, in-a-day ascents of Moonlight Buttress in Zion, as well as 5.13 trad ascents around Boulder. Wilbur, an engineer, also built his own portaledge. Ebers was working on his Naked Edge time as far back as 2018, when he climbed the route in 37:34 with Wade Morris.

Earlier this year, according to a Rock and Ice article, Ebers and Wilbur took a shot at a quick lap of The Naked Edge—running the approach and descent and simul-climbing the route—and clocked an impressive 28 minutes, just a few minutes off the existing record.

From then on they gave an intentional effort to break the speed record. The pair made a number of attempts, each one cutting seconds off their time. On Friday, May 22, the duo bolted across the bridge. Griebel was on hand to watch. Before long the climbers were back on the bridge, having completed the route and taken 15 seconds off the record. Twenty-four minutes and 14 seconds—an astronomical leap from Layton Kor’s cutting edge FA over the course of two years a half-century ago.

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