Risky, Speed-Climbing Techniques Are Killing People, Experts Warn

Some high-profile mountaineers say it's time to reconsider the unorthodox practice.

Speed climbing—the evolving, fast-paced sport in which timing is everything—is killing and injuring some of the best climbers in the world, Outside reports.

Fresh arguments about the practice, which involves unusual and unconventional climbing techniques, have erupted after two veteran Yosemite climbers fell 1,000 feet to their deaths over the weekend. They were killed just days after two separate climbers broke a record climbing El Capitan’s 3,000-foot Nose in just 2 hours, 10 minutes and 15 seconds.

It doesn’t look like they were going for any kind of record, but they were moving fast and likely using some similar tactics,” Outside’s Matt Skenazy writes of the two fallen climbers. Skenazy also reached out to John Long, the first climber to make a one-day ascent of the Nose in 1975, who expressed his concern for cutting corners while climbing.

“As this record gets lowered,” Long said, “the only way to do it is to take increasingly hairy risks. All these guys are operating at the same level. The fluency on rock is self-same. What’s speeding this thing up is increasing the compromises they’re living with in the safety system.”

Expounding upon this idea on the climbing forum SuperTopo, Long wrote: “It’s starting to be clear that speed climbing…needs to be reconsidered.

“I offer no solution or even recommendation per speed climbing but if it keeps maiming and killing the best among us it deserves a close look… If nothing else this and recent accidents will make perfectly clear what [the] risks are. Then the choice is yours.”

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