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.