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Challenging the Speed Record on El Capitan

Posted on: June 30, 2008

On Sunday, a couple of climbers, Hans Florine and Yuji Hirayama (who currently hold the second place in speed record ascents of El Cap), attempted to challenge the world record. (Article about climb from San Francisco newspaper here.) Germans Thomas and Alexander Huber hold the current record; they scaled the Nose route in 2 hours, 45 minutes in October. Florine and Hirayama missed the record by two and a half minutes, but they plan to try again on Wednesday.

Is setting a record speed climbing really what climbing El Cap is about? Or what climbing anything is about? It seems that these guys are more wrapped up in beating one another than in making progress in the climbing world. Their climbs are now only focused around numbers and other people. Their drive to win and hold a record on El Cap has eclipsed the real value of individual challenge, and maybe even safety.

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So, are you saying Roger Bannister should have just jogged around the track in 1954 for the mile and enjoy the view?

Why is there so much cynicism with the efforts to break the record. Climbing, like many of the activities in which we Alpinist readers take part, is about testing the limits of the human body - Establishing new benchmarks for performance.

In regards to "what climbing El Cap is about", why does it matter why we, or anyone, climb. The beauty of climbing is the fact that there is no single reason to climb. Not everything we do needs to be defined by reason. With the amount of our lives spent on various obligations, isn't it great to have an activity that we do for our very own purpose?

I'll never climb like Hans and Yuji - not because I don't want to, but simply because I can't. Whatever your reason to climb, go and enjoy moving across the rock. But as you do, remember that the team racing up the line below you may have a different reason for being there, and that's ok.

2008-07-02 19:25:03
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