Cheyne Lempe sets Salathé Wall rope-solo speed record on El Capitan
American climber Cheyne Lempe has set a new rope-solo speed record on the Salathé Wall, climbing the historic route up El Capitan in Yosemite in 20 hours 6 minutes.
"Tomorrow I'm going to try to climb the Salathé Wall on El Capitan in one day by myself. Man! All those words in the same sentence sounds like a lot of suffering!" These are the words American climber Cheyne Lempe uttered last Wednesday that give interesting insight into the task that lay in store. Hours later the 22-year-old YOSAR (Yosemite Search and Rescue) team member set off up the monumental route, deemed by many as one of the greatest rock climbs in the world and first ascended in 1961 by Tom Frost, Chris Pratt and Royal Robbins. At the time the trio carried out an astounding ascent over a period of nine and a half days, with fixed ropes on the lower third only, before delving into the unknown for six days, up a face that was still practically unclimed. A mere 13 expansion bolts were placed, compared to the 125 used three years previously by Warren Harding, Wayne Merry and George Whitmore during the 45-day first ascent of The Nose. The Salathé set a standard, in terms of style, for future generations.
According to climbing.com Lempe set off early 6 November and, after climbing all day and well into the night, topped out at 3:51 am on 7 November before drinking some water and snuggling into a sleeping bag he had previously stashed at the summit. In doing so Lempe reputedly beat the previous record of 21 hours 44 minutes set by Steve Schneider in 1992 .
The Salathé Wall
First ascent: Royal Robbins, Chris Pratt, Tom Frost, 1961
Length: 870m (35 pitches)
First free ascent: Todd Skinner and Paul Piana swinging leads.
One of the all-time monuments to free climbing, the Salathé is perhaps the most logical big wall up El Capitan. Every pitch has its own story to tell and, as always in Yosemite, has its own name. Every pitch is legendary. And marked by good belays. Normally the route is climbed by ascending the first 10 pitches to the Mammoth Terraces to then abseil to the base via the Heart Ledge before continuing the ascent the next day.
The Salathé Wall is named after American rock climbing pioneer John Salathé. It was the first big wall to be freed on El Capitan at the hands of Paul Piana and Todd Skinner during a nine-day period in 1988 and their ascent heralded the start of a new era of massive free climbs in Yosemite. In 2005 Steph Davis made the first female ascent.