Friday, August 15, 2008

Speed climbing and the Super Sherpa

This summer has seen a flurry of interest in climbing Mount Rainier FAST... Justin Merle set the pace by breaking Chad Kellogg's record (4 hours 59 minutes) by 10 minutes on July 11th. His friend and colleague, Liam O'Sullivan, raised the bar a few weeks later by sprinting up and down the mountain (Paradise to summit and back) in 4 hours 46 minutes, besting Merle by 3 minutes... Last week, Lhaka Gelu Sherpa threw the gauntlet down in hopes of smashing that record. With 13 Everest summits under his belt and a previous Everest speed record (the current record is held by Pemba Dorje Sherpa), Lhakpa certainly had the credentials to do it. But his well-publicized attempt was thwarted by nasty leg cramps on the descent (something that Liam also met with on a prior and unsuccessful ascent) and so our "Super Sherpa" will have to try again another day. I suppose that we'll see him again, and other speed climbers too... But any takers better move fast, as the route is beginning to change in ways that make rapid movement harder and more challenging (but it's still great for the masses that take 2-5 days, so don't worry).

We've also been getting questions about timed ascents to Camp Muir. So for your information, here are a few facts. In 1994, Climbing Ranger Scott Wanek ran from Paradise to the high camp in 51 minutes! Not bad, eh? Most people can't even ski DOWN that fast. But don't feel bad if your normal one way time is something like 4-6 hours, because Scott also had run a personal best 4:11 mile. Of course, Wanek's record had to be broken too, and it was done last year by Climbing Ranger Andy Anderson. Andy quietly posted a 46 minute one way ascent to Camp Muir! Yup, 4,500 feet of gain in 4.5 miles. So what did you do in the last 46 minutes? Michael Phelps might be smashing Olympic records, but it seems the Rainier records are meeting a similar fate this summer too.

Post by Monica and Mike