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Climb Fast Climb More

Speed Climbing Makes You a Better Climber


Climb Fast Climb More

Pete Takeda belays Beth Renn on Tom's Thumb in the McDowell Mountains near Phoenix, Arizona.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green

Go fast. Enjoy more. I have the book Speed Climbing!, which Hans Florine, the multiple X-Games speed champion and the speed record holder for The Nose of El Capitan, gave to me a couple years ago. That’s what he signed on the title page: “Go fast. Enjoy more.” That’s Hans’ mantra, and he lives it. He gets up a lot of climbs, fast. I adopted it too, years ago. Mine though is a variation: Climb fast. Climb more. That works for me.

Climb fast. Climb more.

Climb fast. Climb more. It’s a good personal climbing mantra to have. I like to get a lot of pitches in. I’m usually a pretty busy guy. I’ve written and photographed 18 books. I guide climbing clients once or twice a week. I help my elderly parents out with yard work and trips to the store. I work on this climbing website for About.com. So when I go climbing, I want to climb. I want to move. I want to get up a lot of pitches and routes.

“You guys are fast.”

For instance, a few weeks ago I went over to Red Rock Canyon, a Colorado Spring’s open space park with 90 bolted sport routes on sandstone slabs. A few hundred yards ahead on the trail, I saw a fellow I know named Bill and his climbing partner. They sauntered along, their bulging climbing packs swayed on their backs. Brian and I fast-walked up the trail and quickly overtook them. “Where ya headed, Bill?” I asked. “Up to Dreamtime,” he replied. “You don’t mind if we jump on it quick, do you?” I asked. “Nah, that’s okay. You guys are fast,” he said.

Being Ready to Climb Saves Time

We raced past the Solar Slab and up the access gully to a sloping slab below The Whale, a half-mile-long cliff lined with routes. We were going to start on the south side with Dreamtime, a fun 5.5, and then work north. Our goal was a dozen pitches in an hour. I dumped my pack, pulled the rope out of the rope bag, and tied my usual figure-8 follow-through knot into my harness. I had already put my harness on back at the parking lot, and racked ten quickdraws and a belay device on it. All I had to do was exchange my Nike sandals for La Sportiva rock shoes and I was ready to rock. I dragged the rope across the low-angle slab and stacked it below the first route. I looked down. Bill was just starting up the gully.

One Hour. 14 Pitches. A Lot of Fun

By the time Bill was taking off his pack on the slab, I was already at the anchors and yelling down to Brian, “Take. Lower me.” By the time Bill had geared up, uncoiled his rope, set up a belay, and reached the anchors on Dreamtime, Brian and I had already climbed five pitches—between the two of us, that’s ten pitches of climbing. Almost 50 minutes later we finished our dozen pitches. “Hey,” I said, “we still have ten minutes left. Why don’t we finish with those two 5.10s at the end?” Twenty minutes later we were back at the parking lot with 14 pitches each and I still had plenty of time to get home and write an article about lightning safety.

Climbing Fast Makes You Climb Better

Climbing fast makes you a better climber. You learn to be more efficient as you climb and you use less energy. You do more pitches so you get stronger and have better climbing endurance. It’s also good for your climbing head because you’re getting more mileage on the rock so you’re less scared and have less time to think about exposure and scary moves since you’re usually cruising through them. You get more efficient at setting up and breaking down belay anchors.

Always Be Safe!

There are a lot of benefits to fast climbing but there is one important commandment: Never sacrifice safety for speed. Whenever you climb fast, you must never compromise your basic chain of safety or do risky maneuvers to save time. You always remember that the rock will always be there to come back to another time, but doing stupid stuff jeopardizes you and your partner’s health, life, and welfare. That said, climb fast and climb more.

Check out and follow my speed climbing tips to get more routes in.

Buy Hans Florine’s book:
Speed Climbing! How to Climb Faster and Better

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