New Speed Records Set on Matterhorn and Half Dome

1280px Matterhorn from Domh%C3%BCtte 2

Continuing my attempt to catch up on some of the bigger adventure stories that took place while I was away, I have details on attempts at speed records on two of the most iconic mountains in the world – the Matterhorn in Europe and Half-Dome in Yosemite National Park.

First, back on April 22 Swiss climber Dani Arnold successfully set a new record on the 4478 meter (14,692 ft) Matterhorn when he raced up its North Face in just 1 hour, 46 minutes. That bests the previous record set by fellow countryman Ueli Steck by 10 minutes. To put that time into perspective, ExWeb says that most good alpinists will require approximately 8-10 hours to complete the same route.

Arnold took the Schmid Route to the summit, free-soloing without ropes the entire way. The climber says that while he didn’t feel he was going particularly fast, he was able to find a good rhythm on the ascent, which allowed him to speed up the mountain at a steady pace. That seems like an understatement when you consider his accomplishment. Climbing the Matterhorn is a classic mountaineering challenge, but to do so in record time is impressive indeed.

This speed record is another reminder of just what a force Arnold is on the mountaineering scene. Back in 2011 he broke another record of Steck’s by going up the Eiger 20 minutes faster than the “Swiss Machine.” While Dani hasn’t gotten the same level of attention from the press that Steck has, he is certainly one of the best climbers working today.

Meanwhile, Dean Potter faced an entirely different type of challenge on his attempt to set a new speed record on Half Dome. According to the Adventure Journal, the climber/BASE jumper used a combination of trail running, fast hiking, and rock climbing to reach the top, and descend back down, in just 2 hours, 17 minutes, and 52 seconds. That effort shaved six minutes off the previous record set by Kyle Williams just last September.

While on his speed attempt, Potter carried no food or water with him, but instead simply went up wearing just a pair of shorts, socks, and running shoes. That is outdoor adventure in its purest form, and is also an impressive feat on a route that almost any reasonably fit person could follow.

Both of these speed records are impressive and inspiring in their own right. Congratulations to both Dani and Dean for completing these challenges.

Kraig Becker