Month: August 2018

RunOut #3: The Tradition of Truth.

In 2013, two French alpinists, who you’ve probably never heard of, climbed a central pillar on Annapurna in pure alpine style. They hung it out there so far, that their ascent very nearly cost them their lives. In any other year, their ascent would’ve landed them a Piolet d’Or award, if not global acclaim and sponsorships galore.

The only problem, the late Ueli Steck had soloed the exact same line a few days before the French climbers left basecamp. Steck claimed to have soloed the 10,000 foot futuristic face in 28 hours round trip, an utterly astonishing feat that landed him a Piolet d’Or the next year.

Ultimately, Steck offered no concrete evidence for his ascent of Annapurna as he didn’t bring a GPS, had no camera, and his altimeter failed during the ascent.

Steck, of course, died in 2017 on Nuptse while acclimatizing for a link-up on Everest. He was soloing when he fell from near the top of the 6,000-meter mountain, but the reasons why he fell, like the details of some of his more controversial ascents such as Annapurna, remain unknown.

That year on Everest, Kilian Jornet, the Spanish ultra-runner and endurance mountain athlete, claimed to have climbed Everest twice within a period of 5 days, each time climbing solo and logging a speed that would nearly break the fastest known time on Everest. Like Steck, Jornet was also solo during his speed ascent. And like Steck, he was unable to offer much more than his word. His GPS failed. His camera failed. All that he had was his word.

But is that enough?

RunOut #2: A Speed Climbing Paradox.

On June 2, Tim Klein and Jason Wells, two highly experienced Yosemite rock climbers, fell during a speed ascent of El Capitan.

Four days later, Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold, also two highly experienced rock climbers, set a new speed record on the Nose of El Capitan, climbing the 3,000-foot route in 1 hour 58 minutes and 7 seconds, breaking the fabled 2 hour mark and besting their own previous record, which had been set two days earlier, by 3 minutes.

The question of speed climbing in Yosemite, a tradition dating back to the first in-a-day ascent of the Nose in 1975 by John Long, Jim Bridwell, and Billy Westbay—were turning to questions about whether it was getting too dangerous. Outside Magazine posted an article entitled: Has Speed Climbing Gotten Too Deadly?

In that story, the author says, “Honnold told me that one of the reasons he wanted to climb with Caldwell was that he “can really trust him. Tommy cares about safety. He’s a family man and won’t do anything crazy up there.”

Is speed climbing a sport only reserved for those who won’t do anything, quote, crazy up there? And what is crazy, really?

I sat down with my good friend Chris Kalous, of the Enormocast fame, who either enjoyed or endured his own latest ascent of El Cap and discuss the uncanniness of how these events unfolded. On one flank of El Capitan, triumphant success, lauded across all mainstream news platforms. Just around the corner, a horror story that shocked the community into questioning the very thing it’s so quick to celebrate.

RunOut #1: What’s Your Dawn Wall (Movie)?

Today’s topic is The Dawn Wall Movie.

The film premiered way back in March at the SXSW festival in Austin Texas. By most accounts, those folks lucky enough to be in attendance were awestruck.

But then the movie just disappeared.

Its almost feels like yesterday, but its been over three years since Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson completed the FFA of the Dawn Wall route on El Capitan in Yosemite. The ascent was as famous among climbers for its audacity and difficulty as it was infamous for the media circus that surrounded the climb. The mainstream media interest in the final ascent was unprecedented, but the climbing community had been witnessing a struggle lasting 7 years.

In the intervening 3 years since the climb, the mainstream media has largely moved on from the story, while in the climbing community, “What’s your dawn wall” became something of a meme – first inspirational and now solidly satirical, though no love has been lost for Tommy and Kevin. Tommy, in particular, has stayed in the spotlight and recently cracked the 2 hour barrier on the Nose with Alex Honnold.

Also, the Dawn Wall saw a relatively drama-free and quick 2nd ascent by Czech phenom Adam Ondra. Something the mainstream media completely ignored. In fact, the US climbing media seemed somewhat nonplussed despite the fact that Ondra deigned to even practice much in Yosemite before dispatching the route in what amounts to much better style than the 1st ascent. Go figure.

So what happened to the Dawn wall movie after its premier in March? It traveled to couple festivals we’ve never heard of on the two coasts and then a screening for industry insiders at Outdoor Retailer Trade Show in Denver, Colorado. Not a peep otherwise.

Josh Lowell and collaborators are keeping their cards close to their chests about its wider release, though rumor has it, the public might see it this fall. Nevertheless, our own industry insider, Andrew Bisharat, was at the premier in Austin and feels its hot time for a review of the film.