From philosophy to rock climbing: Baylor professor breaks 2 Guinness World Records

Baylor professor Dr. Alexander Pruss sets the record for the fastest mile climbed on July 15, 2023, at the McLane Student Life Center rock wall. Photo courtesy of Alexander Pruss

By Ashlyn Beck | Staff Writer

What started as a father-son bonding experience has turned into two Guinness World Records for Baylor philosophy professor Dr. Alexander Pruss.

Pruss, who has been climbing for the past eight years, broke the record for the longest distance climbed in one hour on Dec. 6, 2022, and the record for the fastest mile climbed on July 15. He broke both records on the McLane Student Life Center rock wall.

After he came up a minute short on his first attempt to break the second record, Pruss said he trained for a few months before trying it again — this time with an audience. According to his personal blog, he was required to have volunteers to keep time, serve as witnesses and act as safety officers.

“The final event was actually a lot easier in some ways because there was an audience encouraging me,” Pruss said.

Even President Linda Livingstone and first gent Brad Livingstone happened to join the audience at one point, Pruss said.

“By chance, after about 45 minutes of climbing, the Livingstones came to do a workout and talked to the audience about what was going on,” Pruss said.

On his second attempt, Pruss broke the record for the fastest mile climbed by eight minutes, with a final time of one hour, 42 minutes and 58 seconds. The previous record was held by Texas A&M alumnus Andrew Dahir.

Pruss said he was intentional about which spot on the wall he climbed, choosing the simplest route.

“It was probably the easiest part of the wall to climb, but the difficulty was going to be in the amount of time — and, well, I’m doing it 112 times,” Pruss said.

According to the Campus Recreation website, the SLC rock wall, nicknamed “The Rock,” is 53 feet, and includes features like overhangs, slabs and crack formations.

Rock wall manager Rachel Burduroglu said the Outdoor Adventure staff know Pruss and his son well because of how often they are at the rock wall.

“I think we’re privileged to get to be his belayers and help him train and reach his goals,” Burduroglu said.

Pruss said rock climbing is a fun way to stay active because it’s not just a physical challenge.

“There’s a mental aspect of trying to figure it out,” Pruss said. “It’s like puzzle-solving. It’s like this puzzle that involves your body.”

Pruss also said rock climbing is more varied than other sports and always provides a new challenge.

“Unlike running or biking, it’s always different,” Pruss said. “It can always be different because they keep on changing out the arrangement of the holds on the wall.”

Burduroglu said rock climbing at the SLC rock wall is a unique experience because it brings faculty, staff and students together.

“It helps break down the barriers [between] students and faculty [by] being able to connect over a shared passion of rock climbing,” Burduroglu said. “My students love seeing professors that they know climb.”

After breaking two Guinness World Records, Pruss said he is not eager to continue breaking records. He said the next step would be to climb the height of Mount Everest, which he isn’t ready for. For now, he will continue doing routes at the SLC rock wall to grow his climbing abilities.

“I keep on finding new things to do,” Pruss said. “There’s routes on the wall that I can’t do, so there’s an ongoing challenge.”