Catching Up with Hans
Hans Florine is obsessed with speed. He claims to time virtually everything: “driving distances, widget production, diaper changes, loan closings, newspaper reading.”
He won the first World Speed Climbing Championship back in 1991 and has been the U.S. National Speed Climbing champion nine times in the past 15 years. The 42-year-old Lafayette resident keeps setting speed records for climbing The Nose of El Capitan in Yosemite. (For the full scoop, check out www.hansflorine.com.)
While you can’t quite say that Florine wrote the book on speed, that’s only because he hasn’t finished it yet. The tentative title is “Speed is Power,” and he recently got a New York agent to represent him in finding a publisher.
He goes back to the word’s original Anglo Saxon meaning of “speed,” which meant success and prosperity. Another way of saying it is “effective speed.”
“That is the same sort of speed I teach and talk about in my book,” he says. “The speed I’m talking about, there’s no application where it doesn’t work.”
Florine’s interest in climbing fast started when he realized he was good at it. It’s still something of a novel event at the world championships, he acknowledges, but speed climbing opens up a lot of possibilities. It allows him to fit in some climbing during lunchtime or on a weekend, and lets him do more climbing no matter how much time he has.
That helps explain how he’s been able to climb El Capitan 122 times, including 62 times up The Nose.
What keeps it fresh, he says, is that instead of having a regular climbing partner he seeks out fresh partners for each trip.
“I have done The Nose with over 100 people,” he says. “Just like you might have a walk you like to do around your neighborhood, pointing it out to people. You see them experiencing it for the first time.”
That’s also his approach to Touchstone, where he has been a shareholder since he helped put screws in the wall at Mission Cliffs in 1995. More than a decade later, he still runs a Monday night training class at Touchstone Concord and teaches a few private clients at the gym.
“Introduce somebody who doesn’t know about climbing to the gym,” he suggests. “You’ll get to re-live the excitement you had when you first got interested in climbing. I take lots of people out climbing for the first time, and you see their eyes get really big. It re-excites you about climbing and fitness.”
That attitude also reflects the big change at Touchstone over the years, he says.
“I think we have learned that our business is teaching people who don’t know how to climb and people who are just interested in fitness, instead of ‘let’s find the climbers in the community and make a place for them to play and exercise,’ ” he says.
His wife, Jacki, appreciates speed too. She holds the fastest time for Female Unsupported Solo Hike of the John Muir Trail. And a new generation of Florines is on the way up. At ages 3 and 6, however, the Florine children are mostly just climbing furniture at this point.
Labels: climbing, El Capitan, Hans Florine, The Nose, touchstone, Yosemite