Climbers Andy Wayatt and Colin Haley have completed the fastest car-to-car (starting and ending at the same trailhead) ascent and descent of Fitz Roy. Climbing reports the duo summited the iconic peak and returned to their trailhead in 21 hours, 8 minutes. The previous record was 31.5 hours. Even more impressively, they traveled in and out with all of their gear, running for hours with heavy climbing racks across glaciers and up mountains before (and after) summiting a peak that’s tested some of the world’s best climbers. It’s a feat that is not only impressive as an act of climbing, but also as a trail run. It’s a sign of just how fit alpine athletes have become, and a sign of where the sport is going.
Fitz Roy is an iconic 11,171-foot peak in Patagonia famous for its rugged beauty and multitude of challenging climbs. It’s also infamous for its difficulty and fickle weather. Most climbers give themselves weeks to climb the mountain — while the face can be climbed in a day, breaks in the weather long enough to allow a summit attempt are few and far between. In 2014, Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold completed the Fitz Traverse — a traverse of Fitz Roy and all of its sub peaks, a feat which won them National Geographic‘s coveted Explorer of the Year Award.
Why is it important? The climb is indicative of a growing trend in mountaineering where the men and women at the highest levels of the sport are transitioning away from expedition-style climbs (where parties make summit attempts from well-provisioned basecamps) to a lighter, faster, and more self-sufficient approach. As training and technology improve, we can expect to see more climbs like these that blend mountaineering with sports like skiing, snowboarding and trail running. We can also expect to see more of Wayatt and Haley — they previously set a speed record for Mount Stewart’s iconic North Ridge, and they show no signs of slowing down. For now, though, Fitz Roy is a more-than-respectable crowning achievement.