Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell changed the climbing and hiking community, not for their first time in their respective careers, with the completion of the new Continental Divide Ultimate Linkup, or CDUL, in the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) on July 20.
The CDUL, connecting Mount Meeker’s “The Flying Buttress” to Notchtop, covered approximately 35 miles with 20,000 ft of vertical ascent, 65 pitches, 11 climbing routes, and 17 named peaks, according to Honnold’s Instagram. The linkup, or route which connects multiple climbs, took a continuous 36 hours and included one of Colorado’s most notorious mountains, Longs Peak, at 14,259 feet in elevation.
Caldwell, who resides near Colorado’s RMNP, grew to fame as a rock climber in the state and most famously completed the first free climb of El Capitan’s “The Nose” in Yosemite with climbing partner Kevin Jorgenson in 2015. Their free climb utilized climbing equipment to protect from falls, but no ropes were used to assist the climber’s progress up the wall. Honnold rose to national prominence in 2017, with the first free solo of El Capitan, in which he climbed the face’s “Freerider” route with no outside protection from ropes or anchors. He is also famous for his free solos of other notable routes such as “Moonlight Buttress,” “Astroman,” “Rostrum,” and Halfdome’s Northwest face.
In 2018, Honnold and Caldwell set the speed climbing record on El Capitan’s “The Nose,” climbing the 3,000 foot wall in a staggering one hour, fifty-eight minutes, and seven seconds. The two have partnered up for record-setting climbs both in Yosemite and Argentina and Chile’s Patagonia.
Caldwell named the CDUL after months of planning a traverse linking continental divide routes and peaks in the RMNP during months of COVID-19 quarantine. The acronym, referred to as “cuddle,” also referred to the way the climbers stayed warm at night after they had missed a supply drop with extra gear, according to Caldwell’s social media. The pair also used phone flashlights stuffed in hats as makeshift headlamps. The team was supported by fellow climbers Adam Stack and Maury Birdwell.
The route’s 65 pitches ranged an estimated 5.6 to 5.11-minus on the Yosemite Decimal Scale, a measure of difficulty for each pitch, or rope-length, on a climbing route. “I guess my wish for a character-building experience paid off,” Caldwell wrote to his social media followers.
Only a few linkups in the RMNP have ever been recorded, and none as record-setting as Caldwell and Honnold’s one-and-a-half day climb.