Touchstone Blog Archive
Sunday, November 6, 2011
  Yosemite's Grand Prix: The Race for the Nose
Yosemite’s Grand Prix has kicked off again this fall. The race for the Nose speed record got jumped started again this past month when Hans Florine and Alex Honnold teamed up to race up the 3,000 foot granite formation.

The Nose of El Capitan

Florine and Honnold met at the base of Yosemite’s El Capitan at 9 am. By 11, Honnold had ripped off his shirt and the pair were speeding up the route. Florine led them smoothly to the Boot, the large boot like formation half way up the route. From there, Honnold took the lead.

Alex Honnold and Hans Florine at the base of El Capitan

In the past few weeks, the pair made a few trial runs up the route to accustom themselves to the route and learn how to climb well together. When asked what the most important part of team efficiency is, Florine responded “Trust.” The pair simul-climb significant portions of the route and have to trust each other not to slip or make a costly mistake, jeopardizing the record and their lives. A fall would be dangerous, especially considering the minimal gear they place between them.

“One #3 cam, one #2, then doubles on down from there,” said Florine of the paltry fourteen cams they brought with them. “Alex wants me to leave the #2 in the car/van.” They try to keep it reasonable though. “It's kind of a balance between running it out for speed and keeping it safe enough to feel comfortable,” said Honnold. “Safety first, fun second, speed third,” said Florine.

Florine going to Dolt

The fastest part of their climbing is simply their lack of idle time on the route. “I don't really move so fast,” said Honnold, “we're just efficient about transitions and strategy. We aren't actually moving all that fast. It's boring to watch.” The pair minimize the belay transitions and simply both move the entire time. They whittled their time from 4:37 on Oct 13th to 3:16 the next week. On November 1st, the pair tried once more.

Honnold racing up the Great Roof

They flirted with the record and were on track the entire way. By the last pitch, they were 7 minutes from the record. Honnold yarded up the bolt ladder. Florine had 4 minutes to finish the pitch. Florine scampered up, almost but not quite hitting the bolts perfectly. The speed bump cost a few seconds. Tom Evans, the man behind the camera at El Cap Bridge, and dozens of climbers bit their nails as they watched from the bridge. They waited for the signal that the pair had beaten the record.
Florine’s obsession with the Nose of El Capitan passion began in 1988, when he partnered with Mike Lopez to climb the center line on Yosemite’s prominent granite formation. Since then, the 47 year old Diablo Rock Gym manager has climbed the Nose 85 times and held the speed record on the route 6 times since 1990.

On the way to Camp 6

Compared to Hans’ 85 times on the route, Honnold has climbed the route, “Maybe 12 or 15 times? Maybe a few more?” Honnold, a 26 year old climber from Sacramento, sped up the Nose last summer and nabbed the solo speed record. Honnold climbed the route for the first time with his friend Josh, who he met at Pipeworks. “I was wrecked for days,” said Honnold of their 22 hour ascent. Honnold continued to speed climb. “I just like the smoothness and efficiency. Speed climbing always feels good because you're doing it so well.” A few summers ago, Honnold and Swiss Machine Ueli Steck attempted to break the Nose Speed record, logging sub 4 hour times.

Hans starting the last pitch

Unfortunately, the pair missed the record by a mere 45 seconds. But this was just a practice run for the team and not a “real” effort. “Given the style/method we are using I think that 2:17 is about as fast as it will go,” said Florine about the fastest possible time. Honnold believes the route can be down even faster. “I sorta think that the right people could maybe do it in sub 2 hours. I think that's nearing the limits of human abilities.” They both believe they can beat Sean Leary and Dean Potter’s 2010 time of 2:36:45 and are willing to put in the effort required.

Florine trains for the NIAD (Nose in a day) by climbing at the Touchstone gyms. “Usually jaunts over to GWPC, BIW, and MC to get in some crack climbing,” said Florine. He attributes his fast movement to his experience with gear placement, selection and knowing his body. Late nights laps in the gyms have helped him get closer to the record but it’s his dedication that has helped the most.

“I just think owning the record on The Nose is worth following a path for as long as I can. Perhaps I'll get the record, perhaps not, I am really loving giving it a go, regardless of the outcome.” Honnold added, “Some day I'd be psyched to be able to say "I once held the speed record on the Nose", but really, it's not that big a thing. If I ever break 2 hours, then I'll be impressed. . .”

The pair hope to climb the route again but Honnold has to leave for Poland in a few days and their ascent is weather dependent. Good luck to both climbers.

Thanks to Tom Evans, of the El Cap report for the photos.

1:59:59 Alex Honnold and Hans Florine- ????
2:36:45 Sean Leary and Dean Potter, 2010
2:43:33 Yuji Hirayama and Hans Florine, 2008
2:45:45 Alexander and Thomas Huber, 2007
2:48:50 Yuji Hirayama and Hans Florine, 2002
3:24:20 Timmy O’Neill and Dean Potter, 2001
3:57:37 Jim Herson and Hans Florine, 2001
3:59:35 Timmy O’Neill and Dean Potter, 2001
4:22:00 Peter Croft and Hans Florine, 1992
4:48:00 Dave Shultz and Peter Croft, 1991
6:01:00 Andres Puhvel and Hans Florine, 1991
6:40:00 Dave Schultz and Peter Croft, 1990
8:06:00 Steve Schneider and Hans Florine, 1990

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