Q&A: Libby Sauter’s Gear and Speed Climbing Tips

Q&A: Libby Sauter’s Gear and Speed Climbing Tips

Libby Sauter is a seasonal Yosemite Search and Rescue member who, with Chantal Astorga, holds the women’s speed record on El Cap’s Nose route (10:40). She’s also climbed El Cap’s Nose (3,000 feet) and Half Dome’s Regular NW Face (2,400 feet) in-a-day, and is an accomplished highliner. All of which made me very curious to ask what kind of tips she could share regarding gear and efficiency for the Gear Institute.

How do you climb big walls so fast?
For most big walls, stepping out of your ladders is one of the hardest things to do but also the most important thing to do to move efficiently. You save time free climbing. Time is everything. Time can be energy saving. It helps route finding. It helps getting the (porta) ledge setup before it’s dark and cold.

What type of shoes do you wear on speed ascents like the Nose?  
(For) speed walls in-a-day, I’m wearing stiff climbing shoes. (This way) I can stand in my ladders but I can also climb a 5.10 section and am ready to go.

Do you carry Alpine Aiders or Traditional?
Alpine Aiders for speed ascents. For proper walls, I use the Yates Big Wall Standard. I just got a pair of the C.A.M.P 10 Step Ladders. For someone one short like me, (this way) I have more options to reach.

What size rack do you carry for the Nose?
I’ve done it a bunch of different ways. The way I do it now, I don’t carry a tag line. We’re carrying pretty much a double set (of Camalots) and Fixe Aliens. For the Nose in-a-day, we’re able to do it with one exchange per block (four to 12 pitches makes up a block). On other stuff, I use a 5mm (to tag additional gear from the belay).

What’s the biggest piece you carry on the Nose?
We kind of wimp out and take two number Fours (Camalots). It depends on my partner.

When we did the link up with a male partner we took one number Four. When the pitch to the top of Dolt is mine (then) two number Fours is faster and energy conserving (because of) crack jugging (essentially sliding cams up a crack using the same motion you would when jugging a line – ed).

A double rack is not that big.
There is a fair bit of back cleaning. It doesn’t ever feel like you’re being unsafe or sketchy.

Do you carry CamelBaks or plastic water bottles?
I carry a one-liter (plastic bottle) on me. Some guys on SAR carry a CamelBak; (when) chimneying they get in my way.

Did your feet swell up on the El Cap/Half Dome link up?
We did bring shoes for the link up. We carried a gallon of water. We each had a windbreaker. The second carried a backpack. I carried a bottle of electrolyte stuff on my harness.

I did the Nose in one pair of shoes. Half Dome in another. I wore the Five Ten V Miles on the Nose. They have a proper sole in them. I could stand in aider in them with no problem.

For Half Dome?
I switched to a pair of baggy Miuras that someone gave to me.

Do you follow a training diet?
Diet for me is my biggest problem. I don’t have much of an appetite. Food is my biggest battle. Eating enough and other than cheddar pop corn. I love cheddar pop corn.