The Nose of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley is not only the most famous big wall rock climb in the world but it’s probably the most beautiful. It’s a sight to behold—a blunt 2,900-foot-high prow that divides the massive granite monolith.
Speed Climbing The Nose
The first ascent of The Nose in 1958 took 47 days. Most parties today take at least three days but often four or five. Now imagine running up it in a mere 2 hours and 45 minutes. That’s what the Huber brothers, Thomas and Alexander, from Germany did in October, 2007. In the process they broke speed climber Hans Florine’s record by 3 minutes.
Hans Florine and The Nose
California climber Hans Florine, a former X-Games speed climbing gold medalist and All-American college pole vaulter, first set the Nose record with Steve Schneider in 1991. The pair raced up it in a now-slow 8 hours and 6 minutes. “I kind of like to own the route, and until October I did,” Hans told the San Francisco Chronicle in a June 26, 2008 cover story. In late June, 2008 he set out with 39-year-old Japanese climber Yuji Hirayama, one of the world’s best rock climbers, to recapture the Nose record, which he had previously set with Yuji in 2002.
Hans and Yuji Set a New Record in 2008
On July 2, Hans and Yuji finally recaptured the record by bounding up the route in 2 hours and 43 minutes, eclipsing the Huber record by 2 minutes 12 seconds. A week before, they tried for the record, but were 43 minutes slow. Then two days later, they tried again but did it in 2 hours 47½ minutes. So after a few days rest, the Japanese-American team went for it again, leaving the base at 6:40 in the morning. At the halfway mark the duo, with Hirayama doing all the leading, was 10 minutes ahead of the record, but time was lost on the steep upper part with a rope snag and sheer exhaustion. After pulling onto the final slabs and running the last 30 feet to touch the official tree that marks the end of the route, Hans radioed down to the watching crowd at El Cap Meadow, reporting their official time as 2 hours, 43 minutes, and 33 seconds—good for a new record and the 10th time Hans has regained it.
Current Nose Speed Record
Records, of course, are made to be broken. The speed record for a year on The Nose of El Cap in 2 hours 36 minutes 45 seconds was held by Dean Potter and Sean Leary, who ran up the route on November 6, 2011. On June 17, 2012, Fathers Day, however, Hans Florine and Alex Honnold smashed that record by almost 13 minutes, doing the 36 pitches in 2 hours, 23 minutes, and 46 seconds. Read more about their ascent in the article Florine and Honnold Speed Climb El Cap in Record Time.
El Cap Nose Fast Facts:
- Route Length: 2,900 feet or 2 stacked Empire State Buildings
- Number of Pitches: 32
- Summit Elevation: 7,569 feet
- Cool Feature Names: Stoveleg Cracks, Sickle Ledge, King Swing, Dolt Hole, The Great Roof, Camp Four.
- First Ascent: Warren Harding, Wayne Merry, and George Whitmore in 47 days, 1958.
- Climbers Killed on The Nose: 13, with the first in 1973.
- First Ascent of Nose in a Day: 17 hours 45 minutes by Jim Bridwell, John Long, and Billy Westbay in 1975.
- Former Team Speed Ascent Records: Alexander and Thomas Huber in 2 hours 45 minutes, 2007. 2 hours 43 minutes by Yuji Hirayama and Hans Florine on July 3, 2008. That’s 17.7 feet per minute!
- Current Team Speed Ascent Record: 22 hours, 23 minutes, and 46 seconds by Hans Florine and Alex Honnold on June 17, 2012.
- Solo Speed Ascent Record: 5 hours 49 minutes by Alex Honnold during a link of Half Dome's Northwest Face and the Nose of El Capitan on June 22, 2010. He climbed Half Dome in 2 hours 9 minutes.
- Number of Nose Ascents by Hans Florine: Over 80 times...and counting. Hans has also climbed El Cap over 150 times!
- Women's Speed Climbing Record: 10 hours 19 minutes by Quinn Brett and Jes Meiris, June 11, 2012.
- Other Stuff to Do in 2 Hours 43 Minutes: Run a marathon at 6.3 miles an hour; Cook an 8-pound turkey; Drive from Baltimore to New York at 78.5 miles per hour; Watch the movie Troy; Watch the Titanic sink in 1912.
Buy Hans Florine’s book:
Speed Climbing! How to Climb Faster and Better, FalconGuides.