Saturday, July 12, 2008

New "Unoffical" Speed Record Set

On Wednesday morning, July 11, Justin Merle, an avid climber, international mountaineer and current employee as a guide with International Mountain Guides (IMG), broke the Mount Rainier summit speed record with a time of 4 hours, 49 minutes and 35 seconds. Here is a link to a recent article on his climb in The News Tribune.

The previous record holder, climbing ranger alum Chad Kellogg, set the record in 2004 with a time of 4 hours, 59 minutes and 1 second. Like Merle's time, it too was not officially recorded; there was no time keeper available at Paradise, Camp Muir or the summit to confirm the event. However, we do have pictures taken by Merle of his watch before and after the climb and climbers up at Camp Muir also confirmed seeing Merle on his descent. This obviously leaves room for disagreement for all those non-believers, but this level of athletic achievement, in such a challenging sport as it is, and a dangerous location as Mount Rainier can be, deserves a nice tip of the hat and a hearty "congratulations". There is no doubt Merle has raised the bar, and the level of anticipation for those other hopeful climbers looking for a new challenge. So, a lingering question remains, “Who's next?”.

Below is Merle’s account of the trip:

Times 6:00:05 -- left the upper Paradise parking lot
7:33ish -- climbed through Muir
8:30ish -- top of Cleaver
9:27 -- Columbia Crest
9:30 -- left register after signing the book
9:35 -- descended from crater rim
10ish -- Ingraham Flats
10:10 -- Muir
10:30 -- Pebble Creek
10:49:40 -- back in the parking lot
Roundtrip -- 4:49:35

I wore light boots (Sportiva Trango S) and Kahtoola

aluminum crampons, lightweight pants and a lightweight longsleeve top. I carried a BD Bullet pack with 2 liters of Cytomax in a hydration bladder, a light Goretex top, warm hat, and gloves. For fuel I carried 6 Gu packages and a pack of Shot Blocks. Overall, the route conditions and weather were almost perfect. The route was direct above the Cleaver and there wasn't much for traffic aside from the guided parties, who were all quite nice in letting me pass. I went to the tippy top and took the time to sign in at the register. It was quite windy on the crater rim and on the summit; aside from that the breeze was pleasant and I did not have to add any layers except a pair of gloves during the ascent. The descent went well--good snow for plunge-stepping and striding out pretty much all the way down. I did fall once on moderate terrain near 13000' as I was cutting some switchbacks--slid a couple meters before regaining my feet. On the descent, I left my pack at Muir and my crampons at Pebble Creek--thanks to the guides for carrying them down. I timed myself on my Suunto watch, and also used the logbook funtion to record the ascent/descent. The only "proof" I have of the times are a couple of before and after photos of the watch, and video taken with the same camera, before and after (I left the camera in a stuffsack at the trailhead). I did sign the register, and saw a lone climber on Columbia Crest, but did not speak with him.

This was my 106th summit of Rainier, by my best count.

~Justin Merle