The climb straight up the Nose of El Capitan ended Sunday in dramatic fashion with Lafayette climber Hans Florine scrambling on his hands and feet, exhausted, his gear hanging off of him, as he desperately pushed to beat the world’s record.
He came close, but missed by 2 1/2 minutes.
Florine and his climbing partner, Yuji Hirayama, made the ascent up the 2,900-foot wall in 2 hours, 47 minutes and 30 seconds, the second-fastest time ever. “I’m disappointed,” said Florine, 44. “I wanted it. I wanted the pressure to be off. … But I think we showed everybody today that we can break it.”
Florine, a former All America pole vaulter who grew up in Moraga, and Hirayama, 39, of Hidaka, Japan, plan to go for it again Wednesday. If they fail again, the record will be safe until September, when Hirayama plans to return for an all-out assault, complete with television crew.
The duo is trying to take back the record on the world famous Nose route from German brothers Thomas and Alexander Huber, who raced up the cliff face in a death-defying two hours and 45 minutes in October, smashing Florine and Hirayama’s previous record by three minutes….
…The competition for bragging rights became a spectator sport Sunday, as crowds with binoculars and telescopes gathered in the meadow, among the trees and along the road below the giant cliff.
Climbers on El Capitan look like slow-moving ants in a sea of granite, and movement is usually hard to detect. Hirayama, one of the world’s best free climbers, always leads while Florine, the consummate strategist, belays and simultaneously climbs behind him, an extremely difficult and usually dangerous maneuver.