The Case for Speed

Outside magazine, April 1996


The Case for Speed
By Todd Balf and Paul Kvinta


Will mountaineering's next era be all about linking the premier routes of yesteryear in nonstop climb-a-thons? Marc Twight thinks so. Best known for his ice-climbing prowess and tortured poetry (see "I Am Marc Twight. Feel My Pain," February 1995), Twight was one of the first Americans to compete with the glam European alpinists of the late eighties, who momentarily made these speed ascents the hottest thing in alpine climbing. The idea became discredited, however, as the expeditions seemed to be less about climbing and more about exorbitant helicopter transport. "The idea wasn't wrong," says Twight, who with Bill Belcourt plans this month to climb the three Great North Faces of the Alps (Grandes Jorasses, Matterhorn, and Eiger) in succession, linking the mountains on skis and bikes rather than by whirlybird. "But helicopter transport between routes is like chipping holds on rock climbs--it destroys the future."

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