A Lafayette rock climber and his Japanese partner defied gravity one more time today and broke their own speed record climbing 2,900 feet up the nose of El Capitan.
Hans Florine, 44, and Yuji Hirayama, 39, of Hidaka, Japan, pulled themselves over the top of the immense slab of granite and touched the tree that serves as the finish line on top of El Capitan in 2 hours, 37 minutes and 5 seconds, beating their fastest time by more than six minutes.
The pair sped up the rock as a crowd of more than 100 people, armed with telescopes, binoculars and cameras, watched in awe from the meadow below. At various points during the climb, some members of the crowd rang cowbells in appreciation of the climbers’ difficult ascent.
Florine has been competing with other climbers for the fastest time on The Nose, the most prominent climbing route on El Capitan, for the past 17 years.
It normally takes three days to conquer this route on El Capitan, a 2,900-foot cliff face that has been known to give even seasoned climbers the jitters.
The risks were on display a little over a week ago when Hirayama fell 55 feet and smashed his ankle against a rock during a practice run. No bones were broken, but the ankle was still swollen Wednesday when the duo took their first unsuccessful shot at their record.