A question of risks: some considerations by Mayan Smith-Gobat
22 September 2012
di Elena Corriero
“I do believe that the time can be reduced by a lot.” says Mayan Smith-Gobat, commenting on her record breaking ascent of the Nose, two days ago, during a practice run. Mayan and her partner Chantel Astorba broke the record recently set by Jos Meiris and Quinn Brett, lowering it by 9 minutes from the previous 10 hours and 19’.
But how close can women get to the men's time? “I believe that the women's time could go down to around the 4 hour mark easily, but it may take a while before it goes below that”, answers Mayan. “Women are generally not as keen to take risks as men, and going under that time would definitely require some risk!”
Risks are inherent in speed climbing, as Mayan point out when explaining the technique they used for their ascent. “We lead the wall in blocks - each taking a bunch of pitches and only switching leads 4 times in total. We also decided to use a technique called "short fixing": when the leader get to the anchors they pull in the rest of the rope, then tie it off and immediately start leading again. This is a bit risky, as the leader is at that point facing a huge fall, but saves a lot of time - we can actually both keep moving all the time.”
How can you deal concretely with risk and danger on a speed climb? What do you do to make your climb safer? “It is all just a matter of assessing how much risk there is and how much you are willing to take”, says Mayan Smith-Gobat. “I am comfortable climbing with what they call "the death loop", and while in this situation I simply put myself in a soloing mindset - there is no option of falling off and I only do what I know I can do safely, otherwise I pull on gear. However”, she continues, “there is risk involved and I believe that this is partially why not many women do this type of thing.”
But what is the point in a speed climb of a big wall? “What is the point in climbing at all?” she asks back. “What is the point in running a race? What is the point of trying to win anything at all or beat any record? I do not really know the answer to these questions... I think it is something to do with our human nature to want to win, our egos.”
Mayan and Chantel are now working on a speed connection of the Nose and the Half Dome, to be climbed directly afterward, within 24 hours. Something that has never been done by a female team. But success is well within their reach.