Yesterday Stefan texted me asking if I wanted to spend a few hours on the Edge. He's in the midst of a very entertaining battle to own the speed record on that route. This has to be the friendliest speed battle ever. This is not a Hans vs. Dean situation. I agreed because it's fun for me to even be peripherally involved with these incredible athletes. As satisfying as it is to help out a friend, I was also being helped out. Anytime I can have a rope-gun help me dial in the Edge, I take it.
We met Mike Schlauch just below Genesis. He was going up to work some heinous route. Stefan had tried it. I didn't even recognize the name or remember it. We chatted with Mike a bit too long and another party had started up the Ramp Route, headed for Anthill Direct. I figured we'd just wait, but when the belayer didn't even have his shoes on and the leader was placing a piece on the 4th class ramp, I knew we didn't have the patience. Stefan suggested we do Touch and Go and that sounded like the best solution, but then he said we should just solo by these guys and rope up later. The climbing up to the Cave is only 5.6, but it is quite steep in a couple of spots. I'd never soloed this approach before, though it should be in my comfort range. I agreed and the leader nicely let us by. I felt comfortable sans rope and we went clear to the Cave pitch. I didn't want to solo this pitch,. Though I've never fallen on it, it involves an awkward move to get out from the cave and I didn't see much to gain by adding this stress.
Once at the base, Stefan led the first pitch up to the anchors. He moved smoothly and placed three pieces of gear in 70 feet. After I lowered him back down to the ledge he casually said that had taken him 2m33s! You'd think a guy who can climb this pitch this fast wouldn't need to practice further, but the record is so ridiculous now that the teams are concentrating on trimming seconds.
Stefan then led the first and second pitches as one and I followed. I got the first pitch clean again, with a very tight rope from Stefan, but fell off the 10b section at the end of the second pitch. Ugh. Every hold felt desperate here. I think I was just pumped/tired. I then lowered Stefan back down to the start and the TRed the first and second pitches in 3m27s. Impressive. At this point even Stefan was complaining about about the very painful fingertip jamming on that first pitch.
Stefan led the third pitch, placing a single piece of gear in 140 feet. I followed. Stefan led the fourth pitch, the chimney pitch, and then lowered down from the anchors at the top. This is unusual for him to stop at this point, but he was here to practice and the next pitch traverses even more to the right, making lower down problematic. He switched the way he does the lower dihedral, using what he calls "the Hans Method", since I told him this was the way that Hans did it.
I TRed the pitch up to the belay. I climbed it clean, but it took me a good while to complete the moves into the chimney for a couple of minutes I was stuck, pressed into the chimney, but unable to move up because my feet were too low and my hands/arms too weak. I eventually made something work and got to the belay. Stefan climbed the pitch again and led up the crux pitch through the boulder problem and overhanging hand crack and then set up a belay right there, without doing the 5.6 climbing to the top. This was mainly for me - to give me a tighter rope while I flailed on this pitch - but also in case he wanted to lower down and go again. The weather was threatening, though, so he didn't do this.
I used Stefan's beta for the boulder problem and got it clean. Sweet. I rarely get this clean, but Stefan's method seemed pretty reasonable. I went up the ramp and on the duck-around move I really stressed my left knee and it still hurts. I must have twisted it while under pressure from squatting so low. I hope this doesn't linger.
All I had left to do was the final hand crack, maybe 20-25 feet of hard climbing. While I have redpointed the Naked Edge, I feel only my closest friends would believe that after watching my performance on this crack. The only positive thing I can say is that I didn't aid any of the moves. And that's only because Stefan only placed one piece, a #2 Camalot, and it was above the hardest climbing. I hung all over this section and only made it up because Stefan made sure I didn't drop at all when I weighted the rope. I think this was the hardest he worked all afternoon.
I led the last section to the top and we headed down the slabs. I was really tried from the climbing and moved at a glacial pace on the descent. I marveled that Stefan and Jason can descend from the top of the Edge to the bridge in just six minutes! I probably took 20 minutes.
It was a really fun afternoon and I learned some new tricks from the past (and future?) Naked Edge speed record holder.