Astorga, climbing partner reach new heights in record time
District 3 avalanche forecaster Chantel Astorga spends most of her winter watching for avalanches that could cascade onto Idhao highways. Her summer pursuit is just the opposite -- how fast can she climb steep mountainsides.
In September, she and climbing partner Mayan Gobat-Smith rewrote the record on an ascent of The Nose of Yosemite's El Capitan in seven hours, 26 minutes, shaving nearly three hours off the previous all-woman's record. They punctuated that performance with another climb of Yosemite's Half Dome.
It was the first time the climbing double had ever been accomplished by two women. Their total time was 20 hours, 9 minutes.
A recent article in Climbing magazine provided details of the Sept. 23 ascent of "The Nose:"
Details on Women’s Nose Record, El Cap–Half Dome Link-Up
By Dougald MacDonald
9/26/12 – Chantel Astorga and Mayan Gobat-Smith destroyed the all-female speed record for climbing The Nose of El Capitan, completing the iconic Yosemite Valley route in 7 hours, 26 minutes. Their ascent took nearly 3 hours off the previous female team’s record. They then continued to the other end of the Valley to climb the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome, completing the link-up (the first ever for two women) in a total of 20 hours 9 minutes.
Astorga and Gobat-Smith began climbing at 3:10 a.m., hoping to do much of the route out of the sun. They led the 31 guidebook pitches in five blocks, with Gobat-Smith taking most of the free climbing and Astorga leading the pitches with more aid. The rack was a double set of cams, with singles in the smaller units and an extra 0.75 Camalot, plus a few wires and a couple of cam hooks for speedy aid. They topped out at 10:36 a.m., to the cheers of a small crowd that had gathered in El Cap Meadow below.
After hiking down, they drove to Curry Village, biked to the Mirror Lake trailhead, and then hiked about an hour and three-quarters up the Death Slabs approach to the foot of Half Dome. On top of El Cap, “we had still felt great,” Gobat-Smith said, “but by the time we had hiked down, eaten some lunch, then done the grueling hike up to Half Dome, tiredness was definitely setting in.”
They started up the Regular Northwest Face at 4:25 p.m. and “simul-climbed” the first half of the route, with Astorga in the lead. Then Gobat-Smith took over the lead, short-fixing the more technical pitches on the upper route so the two could continue to move together. “We were moving slower than we had hoped on Half Dome, but still made the top at 11:19 p.m.,” Gobat-Smith said.
“At the top of Half Dome I hit the wall,” she added. “I had barely eaten or drunken anything during our ascent of Half Dome and had no reserves left. As soon as Chantel joined me on top, I could not do anything other than curl up in a ball and cry for a few seconds. However, after eating some food I was ready to go again. I felt like the epic descent to the Valley floor was the hardest part of the day, but so worth the effort. We arrived back in the Valley after 23 hours and 35 minutes on the go.”
The women’s speed record on The Nose has been dropping steadily in the past year. Astorga and Libby Sauter had set a new mark last fall, climbing the route in 10 hours 40 minutes. (The previous record had been over 12 hours.)
Then, in June, Quinn Brett and Jes Meiris climbed the route in 10:19. Last week, Astorga and Gobat-Smith broke that barrier during a “practice run” on The Nose, climbing it in 10:10. (Gobat-Smith was no stranger to El Cap; last fall, she became the second woman, after Steph Davis, to lead every pitch of the Salathé Wall (5.13b) all free.) When the two women went all out on Sunday, the results were astonishing—they reduced their own speed record by more than 25 percent!
Date of Ascents: September 23, 2012