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More Details on New El Cap Speed Record

Hans Florine and Yuji Hirayama simul-climbing the Nose on El Capitan in the Yosemite Valley. Florine and Hirayama reclaimed the title for the fastest climb of the Nose on Wednesday, July 2, 2008. [Photo] Tom Evans

On Wednesday, July 2, 2008, Hans Florine and Yuji Hirayama climbed the Nose (VI 5.9 A2, 2,900′) on El Capitan, Yosemite. The team made multiple attempts in days prior, and on the previous Sunday had missed the Hubers’ record of 2:45:45 by only two minutes (read the June 30, 2008 NewsWire article). However, their repeat attempt proved successful; they beat the Germans’ time by two minutes to set a new record of 2:43:33. Florine and Hirayama had climbed the Nose four times over the course of the week, starting with a time of 4:48 on Monday, and paring it down to their record-breaking time by Wednesday.

El Cap’s Nose route, described by Florine as “very exposed, very sensational,” was first climbed in 1958 by Warren Harding, Wayne Mary and George Whitmore. After 18 months of preparation and 45 days of work on the route, the team made the first complete ascent in 11 days. The first single-day ascent was made in 1975 by Jim Bridewell, John Long and Billy Westbay. Since then, the competition for the fastest climb has driven the record time consistently downward. In 2002, Florine and Hirayama set the speed record at 2:48:55–a record that stood for five years, until the Huber brothers broke it on October 2, 2007 (read the October 9, 2007 NewsWire article ). “I kind of like to own the route,” explained Florine. “And until October I did.”

The two arrived at the base of Pine Line shortly after 6 a.m. on July 2, and already spectators had begun to gather to watch the team’s climb. “With this, I don’t have much confidence,” said Florine. “Last time, when we beat the record, I really trained for big wall climbing, to have stamina. This time, I don’t have much endurance training, but it is important to do my best.” Before beginning their timed climb, Florine and Hirayama climbed a warm-up pitch on which the latter took a 20ft fall. According to Florine, Hirayama “had tick-marked a foothold and on the practice run thought it was a handhold.” He did not suffer any injuries, and after a five-minute rest, the team began their climb. Within five and a half minutes, Florine had reached the top of the first pitch.

Hans Florine and Yuji Hirayama stand atop El Capitan, Yosemite, having just successfully climbed the Nose route in record time. The team completed the route in 2:43:33. [Photo] Tom Evans

To the audible enjoyment of the crowd, Florine made a 360-degree barrel roll on the King Swing before breaking briefly to refuel. In 1:37, the team had reached Camp IV, which they considered to mark the halfway point of the climb. While not record time to the Camp IV marker, the team’s average time was 5 minutes and 6 seconds per pitch–over 20 seconds faster than their 2002 pitch time average. When Florine reached the final pitch, he didn’t waste any time putting Hirayama on belay, but instead simul-climbed the crack and bolt ladder. As Hirayama had no gear left, he placed none in the crack–he led from the base of the Glowering Spot to the summit without re-gearing. Witness Bill Wright, as he watched the team reach the summit described the two climbers: “Yuji arrives at the top tree and pulls the rope in as Hans climbs, crawls, scrambles, and runs to the tree. Hans lays gasping for air as Yuji comes close to see the time on the watch.” On the way down, Florine and Hirayama were met by cheering supporters who showered them with champagne as they passed through the woods by Manure Pile Buttress.

To read Florine’s complete technical explanation of the climb, see his forum post at

Sources:, Bill Wright, San Francisco Chronicle, Tom Evans