Climber shares (brief) tales of El Cap |

Climber shares (brief) tales of El Cap

Tim Mutrie
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Tim O'Neill climbs higher (and faster). Photo courtesy of Castleton Tower Preservation Initiative.

Ascents of El Capitan, the 3,000-vertical-foot climbing landmark in Yosemite, Calif, usually take a matter of days, involving heaps of gear and port-o-ledges to sleep on. Not so for Tim O’Neill.

In 2001, O’Neill and partner Dean Potter climbed The Nose route of El Capitan in just three hours, 24 minutes to set a new speed-climbing world record. And last fall, O’Neill and Potter became the first climbers ever to link up and bag three massive, Grade VI walls in Yosemite – some 80 pitches and 9,000 vertical feet – in less than 24 hours.

O’Neill has climbed all over the world, from Pakistan to Patagonia, so it’s not surprising, then, when he says his future plans call for spending “as much time above ground as possible.”

On Monday, June 3, at 8 p.m. at Summit Canyon Mountaineering in Glenwood Springs, O’Neill will present a film and slide show about his adventures. The program will highlight his record Nose ascent, notable first ascents with Moab resident Nathan Martin during their 2002 expedition to Patagonia, as well as a 10-minute video about “buildering,” or climbing building in Colorado’s Front Range cities. The “Front Range Freaks” video recently won two jury awards at the Mountain Film Festival in Telluride.

The show will benefit the Castleton Tower Preservation Initiative. Utah Open Lands, a nonprofit land trust based on Salt Lake City, is currently raising money to purchase 221 acres at the base of Castleton Tower to protect it from development and ensure access to one of the classic climbing areas in North America. UOL has raised $200,000 of the $640,000 needed to complete the purchase.

“The degradation and loss of our remaining open lands, especially in such a beautiful and significant area like that which surrounds Castleton Tower, cannot to continue to occur without experiencing irrevocable detachment from the earth,” O’Neill said. “When that happens, the beauty fades, time accelerates and before you know it, you’ve spent you life in front of your television watching the Discovery Channel instead of going out and discovering life for yourself.”

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