Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell’s Continental Divide Ultimate Linkup (CUDL) in Colorado is a beast: 56km of terrain, 6000m elevation, 17 peaks and 11 alpine rock routes from 5.6 to 5.11 , for a total of 65 locations.
The golden boys of climbing made the CUDL for the first time in July 2020; Ben Wilbur and John Ebers claimed their first rehearsal in August.
The task took Honnold and Caldwell 36 hours, extremely fast. While it might not seem painfully long considering the work involved, it does present a significant challenge for any other team. Honnold and Caldwell are arguably the fastest roped team in the world, holding speed records on several routes, including The Nose of El Cap.
No wonder, then, that it took three days for the completed Wilbers and Ebers. After the first CDUL, Caldwell called the goal a “death march” and declared Climbing review he thought endurance athletes would probably repeat it, running between strokes.
The rise of Wilbur and Ebers confirmed Caldwell’s proposition.
The ‘Ultimate Linkup’: what it takes
“The mentality of ultra running is critical,” said Wilbur Escalation. “You have to be able to hold out for a very long time without stopping. But you also have to climb decently. Routes like Fire birds…it is not easy. Middle 5.11, runout, a little scary. [And] to tie it all together, you have to be able to climb simultaneously.
The team climbed a lot simultaneously, committing to the method by cutting their brand new slogan from 70m to 45m. They first tried the affair in August 2020, but were unsuccessful after being mentally and emotionally exhausted from the aforementioned routs. Fire birds. This time they continued. How? ‘Or’ What? Maybe just thanks to the energy bars.
“We have invested in this merger. I bought $ 60 worth of granola bars, ”Wilbur joked.
Wilbur almost passed out from fatigue on an exposed ridge
All kidding aside, the team went into the outing expecting a fight and got one. The adventure began at 3:30 a.m. on August 28 at Longs Peak Ranger Station. Although they had a successful first day, reaching seven of the 17 formations required by the CDUL, they scored late. Wilbur nearly passed out on an exposed ridge line, and their One-Person Resupply Team failed to meet them at their meeting point.
The mistake could have been critical – it left the team running out of sleeping bags and food – but they continued stoically.
“I think the only reason I can do things [like the CDUL] is [because] I’m the only one stubborn enough to follow John, ”Wilbur said.
At this point, it’s worth noting that Wilbur and Ebers are climbing superlatively, both individually and as a team. Ebers sent the hardest route over The Diamond, Dunn-Westbay direct (IV, 5.14-). Wilbur redpointed the notoriously difficult The honeymoon is over (5.13c) on the same side. Together they own the speed record on exposed and technical terrain. The bare edge (5.11b, 460 feet) in Eldorado Canyon.
The two reflected on their experience and camaraderie as the outing entered its second day. And then his third.
Work, burn out, triumph and work again
With characteristic frankness, Honnold said Escalation, “I’m impressed that they’ve stuck with this for so long. Tommy and I did something like 36 hours, and it was long and rather obnoxious at the end of it. Going longer must have been difficult.
Wilbur and Ebers continued to run for miles and climbs. Finally, they got a late replenishment. The final task was to pass Sharkstooth (3850 m) via the Northeast Ridge (II, 5.6). On August 30, at 1:30 p.m., they finished the liaison for her first rehearsal. Unfortunately, their work was not yet complete.
“We both had to work the next day which was difficult,” Ebers said.
About the Author
Sam Anderson takes on any writing assignment he can talk to while intermittently traveling the American West and Mexico in search of margaritas – er, adventure. He turned a decade of itinerant commercial work into a life of fine-weather rock climbing and trucking before (much to his parents’ relief) finding a way to use his bachelor’s degree in English. Sam loves animals, sleeping outdoors, campfire refreshments, and a good story.