Back in 2010, before he gave up on protective climbing equipment like ropes, Alex Honnold climbed The Nose on El Capitan in 5 hours and 50 minutes. He sliced the previous best time nearly in half, and that record has stuck for 13 years – until last week.
On Monday October 10, Yosemite climber Nick Ehman rocked up to the base of El Cap and started climbing around 8 a.m. The 28-year-old climber is a member of Yosemite National Park’s search and rescue team and has climbed the route dozens of times, but this day felt different.
“I felt very comfortable in that no-fall headspace, and felt like I had to go for it," he tells the San Francisco Chronicle.
Once thought to be unclimbable, The Nose has become the gold standard for big wall climbing. Lynn Hill was the first to climb it in under 24 hours in 1994, then Tommy Caldwell broke the 12 hour record in 2005. Caldwell and Honnold have speed-climbed the route as a duo in under two hours, but climbing it solo in under five hours has been thus far unheard of.
Tom Evans of El Cap Reports wrote that day that he was not forewarned that Ehman was going to make a run at the record, but has heard that he has done the route some 15 times this season, which should have been a clue.
"His exceptional diet of meat, salt, and water seems to have given him unusual strength and endurance and he took no water or food on this run up the route. Our local vegetarians were dumbfounded!" writes Evans.
Using ropes and cams but with no food or water, Ehman clambered over the lip of El Cap at 12:41 p.m., 4 hours and 39 minutes after starting, to the cheers of his audience down in El Cap meadows below. And so begins a new standard for The Nose.
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.