Aaron H. Bible—In the true high-alpine spirit of suffering for your goal, free-soloist Cedar Wright, 38, and climbing partner Alex Honnold, 27, recently set an obscure and painful new record: linking together all of California’s 14ers entirely by human power.
The duo set off by bicycle June 19 and had climbed technical routes on fifteen 14ers by July 10, 2013. The trip covered roughly 800 miles (700 by bike, 100 by foot) and more than 100,000 vertical feet. Notably, the team took the most difficult technical rock routes they could find, free-soloing each climb up to 5.10a.
Alex Honnold (left) and Cedar Wright (The North Face)
“We were ready for something different,” said Wright from his home in Boulder, Colo. “And we were psyched to try out the bike touring—we had been wanting to try something lower impact. We just had no idea how heinous it was going to be. We slowly but surely drove ourselves into the ground. We really wanted to quit. At times we secretly hoped our bikes would get stolen so we could quit. But we’re both the kind of people who just don’t give up.” The two took about five rest days during the 21-day journey.
While California has at least 20 summits over 14,000 feet, only 12 meet the “300 vertical feet of prominence” standard, but many climbers include the three peaks along the Palisade Traverse to reach the number 15.
Wright adds, “Taking the car out of the mix really makes things much more difficult ... and adding a six thousand foot elevation gain on the bike to each mission [Editor’s note: from the road to trailhead] really ups the suffer quotient.”
He continues, “This was one of the most sustained and difficult climbing challenges of my life, and as far as I know it is the first time that all of the California 14ers have been enchained by bike. I'm really happy we pulled it off, because at times I genuinely wondered if my body was going to hold up. We climbed quite a bit of technical rock, all on-sight free solo, and tried to stay away from the standard routes as much as possible. We were in a perpetual state of exhaustion which definitely adds an element to the solo commitment,” Wright said.
He adds, “I consider this to be one of the greatest achievements of my climbing life, and it was awesome to share it with Honnold who is a great friend and motivating force in my life.
“I jokingly coined our trip the ‘13 14 15 Sufferfest,’ but it turned out to be a pretty premonitory name for the trip. Mostly we toiled and suffered, but occasionally I would have a moment of genuine bliss, taking in the beauty of the incredible Sierra Nevada. Hopefully we inspired other climbers to undertake a big human powered adventure,” Wright said.
Peaks and routes climbed (the duo also bagged two 13,000 foot peaks, not listed here):
• Mount Shasta 14,162-ft. Via Sergeants ridge
• North Palisade 14,242-ft.
• Middle Palisade 14,012-ft. Traversed in From Norman Clyde... epic choss death mission. Choss is crumbly, low quality rock.
• Starlight Peak 14,220-ft.
• Thunderbolt Peak 14,003-ft.
• Polimonium Peak 14,100-ft.
• Mount Sill 14,153-ft.
• Split Mountain 14,058-ft., completed the regular route because this mountain is comprised of decomposing choss.
• White Mountain Peak 14,246-ft.
• Mount Tyndal 14,018-ft., climbed the Tyndall Effect
• Mount Williamson 14,375-ft.
• Mount Russell 14,088-ft., Mithril Dihedral
• Mount Whitney 14,497-ft., East Face/Keeler
• Mount Muir 14,012-ft.
• Mount Langley 14,026-ft., Rest and Be Thankful... an easy but adventurous 10a
Aaron Bible is an outdoor industry journalist, covering paddling, climbing, biking, skiing and adventure travel for the last 15 years. He is based in Frisco, Colo. More of his work can be viewed at www.ahbmedia.com.
This story first appeared in Expedition News.