Saturday, December 3, 2022

A new (but uncertified) world record

And now for something not very philosophical. Today, in front of two witnesses and two timekeepers and with the help of Levi Durham doing an amazing feat of belaying me for an hour, I beat the Guinness World Record in greatest vertical distance climbed in one hour on an indoor climbing wall. The previous record was 928.5m and I did 1013.7m (with about half a minute to spare). On Baylor's climbing wall, this involved 67 climbs divided into sets of 10 (the last was 7), with about a minute of rest between sets (the clock kept on running during the rest).



Technical notes:
  • The top of the wall is 15.13 meters vertically from the ground (as measured by a geology grad student), at 3.5 degree slab.
  • I trained for about three months, not very heavily. In training did two unofficial full-length practice runs, and in each I beat the previous record: in the first one I got 947.1 meters and in the second I got 1004.5, so I was pretty confident I could beat the 928.5 meters on the official attempt (though I was still pretty nervous). I also trained by doing a small number of approximately 1/2 or 1/3 sized practices (maybe three or so), and more regular shorter runs (1-10 climbs) at fast pace. 
  • The route was a standard 5.7 grade for most of my training (including when I unofficially beat the records), with Rock management kindly agreeing to keep the route up for several months for me. For the final attempt, we added holds to make the finish at the top of the wall, and changed three other holds to easier ones. (Guinness has no route grade requirements.) 
  • A Kindle Fire running a pre-release version of my Giant Stopwatch app provided unofficial timing for audience to see and for my pacing. I had to modify the app to have a periodic beep to meet Guinness's requirements of an audible stop signal.
  • I climbed in sets of 10. The planned pace was 8:18 per set and a 44-45 second rest between sets (clock runs during rests,), averaging at 49.8 seconds per climb including descent. I was always ahead of pace, and I occasionally took a mini break at the mid-point time if I was too far ahead.
  • On the ground there was a sheet of paper with the start and end times of each break printed in large letters (calculated by this script), as well as the mid-point time for each set of 10 to keep me better on pace. 
  • I wore moderately worn (one small hole) and comfortable 5.10 Anasazi shoes, a Camp USA Energy harness, shorts and a T-shirt. (I have not received any sponsorship.) My belayer used a tube-style device and wore belay gloves.
  • In the morning I stress-baked pumpkin muffins for myself and the volunteers. I had the muffins, water and loose chalk on a table for use during breaks.
  • About half-way through, I ducked into the storage area inside the rock and changed to a dry shirt. 
  • Most of my practice was with an auto-belay, and at a shorter distance per climb (and hence greater number of climbs needed) since the auto-belay makes it impossible to get to the top of the wall. The auto-belay is also spring loaded so it effectively decreases body weight (by 7 lbs at the bottom according to my measurement). Then a couple of weeks ago the auto-belay was closed by management due to a maintenance issue, and I had a break in training until the Wednesday before the official attempt when I trained with a manual belay. 
  • Since Guinness requires video proof in addition to human witnesses, in the interests of redundancy, I had three cameras pointed at the attempt. The best footage (above) is from a Sony A7R2 with a zoom lens at 16mm, producing 1080P at 59.94 fps. Video was processed with Adobe Premiere Rush. The processing consisted of trimming the start and end, and adding a timing video track I generated with a Python OpenCV2 script, synchronized with single-frame precision at the 1:00:00 point with the footage of Giant Stopwatch (barely visible under the table towards the end of the video; early in the video, glare hides it). For the unofficial version I link above, I accelerated the middle climbs 10X in Premiere Rush.

14 comments:

Walter Van den Acker said...

You should make a living out of that, Alex.
Would give you a lot less stress.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I was actually really stressed yesterday. I had already beaten the record unofficially in practice, but with lots of people coming to watch (local climbers, grad students and colleagues), I didn't want to disappoint. Contributing to the stress was that the conditions changed from my practice runs (the auto-belay was down from maintenance and I had to use a manual belay; this involved lengthening the route slightly, increasing the length of each set and decreasing the total count, as well as an effective increase in my weight since the auto-belay subtracts a few pounds due to its spring-loading), and that I hadn't been able to train on the particular route for several weeks prior to Wednesday due to the auto-belay being down for maintenance while on Wednesday's approximately half-distance-at-half-time practice I was more tired at the end than I should have been due to poor pacing.

Austin McCoy said...

Congratulations!

Gordon said...

Congratulations!

Walter Van den Acker said...

Congratulations!

Unknown said...

wow! Well done!

James Reveley said...

As we say in Australia, you are 'a gun'! Have you ever thought about writing philosophically about climbing? Perhaps even just in the vaguely existential vein that Murakami mines in his 'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running'.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Thanks everyone!

James Reilly said...

Congratulations! Do you intend on having it certified by Guinness?

James Reilly said...

I just noticed that you mentioned capturing video footage for Guinness, so I suppose that answers my prior question. I apologize for the oversight. Congrats again!

Alexander R Pruss said...

I spent over a whole day documenting things for Guinness. They want photos, attempt video (with running count--there was more python scripting to generate that, plus looking at the video to figure out the times of all the ascents), statements from two witnesses and two timekeepers for the attempt, a measurement statement from a "surveyor or other qualified person" (a geology grad student in our case), a measurement video, two witnesses for the measurement, an index to the photos, documentation of timekeeper and witness qualifications, and a notable moments list for the video.

On the bright side, all this means that their records are probably pretty reliable.

It's now submitted, and they should respond in three months. Fingers crossed. For GBP 500, they can do a rush review in five days, but why bother?

James Reilly said...

Wow, I had no idea that their confirmation process was so extensive! I wonder what purpose the "notable moments" list is meant to be playing, especially since they already have the video itself.

Alexander R Pruss said...

I am guessing that if one is doing one of the longer records, say an 8 hour one, they aren't going to want to watch all of the video, except maybe at high speed, and so looking at notable moments might make sense.

I expect they also choose some small fraction of the records to feature on social media, and I could see them using the notable moments list to extract video for that.

I pity those who don't have programming skills, though. Inserting a running count of laps into a video by manually inserting a title into the video at each point with a video editor program would be as much an endurance sport as actually doing the laps. It took me a while to type up the times of all the climb tops, but after that I just had the computer automatically generate a video track for the inset window with time and counts.

Alan Hajek said...

Amazing! Congratulations Alex!