The news spread like wildfire, perhaps faster even than the ascent itself: Alexander and Thomas Huber have set a new speed record on The Nose, climbing the legendary route up El Capitan in a mere 2 hours, 45 minutes and 45 seconds!
This autumn the Huber brothers travelled to Yosemite once again to beat the 2:48:55 set in 2002 by none other than Hans Florine and Yuji Hirayama. Finally on Monday 9 October, after exactly a year of efforts (and also an injury in spring 2006) the Germans got that "bit of luck" they needed. Simul climbing for most of the route both free and with aid they climbed the 900m line from the start to the tree finish in just two hours, 45 minutes and 45 seconds... beating the record by over three minutes!
Circa 100 climbers gathered together to watch the show on the beautiful El Cap Meadows from 6.50am to circa 9.35. just in time for coffee and donughts! Since Speed climbing is a niche discipline, we decided to ask Alexander to give us some more information about their ascent.
The Nose 2:45:45 - Alexander and Thomas Huber
How well does one have to know a route to set a new record?
I think it's essential to know a route perfectly. Not only to climb faster but, above all, so that once can climb safely despite the speed! We climbed the route six times this autumn before the first proper speed attempt.
You talk about safety. What role does risk play?
Risk is the all-important factor in speed climbing. We could climb even quicker, but this is always connected to a significant increase in risk. We climbed fastest obviously on the easier sections, and needed most time on the rope manoeuvres, such as the pendulum on the Stoveleg Cracks or the King Swing.
Climbing is intrinsically connected to its underlying ethics. Does this hold true for Speed ascents?
Ethics and rules to be obeyed certainly exist for speed climbing, just like for all other climbing disciplines. For example the start and finish of a route are determined clearly.
After a series of attempts finally the new record. What worked better this time round?
This time we had that bit of luck which had eluded us during out last two attempts. It was hard though to find the right motivation after two attempts which had failed due to injury. But it was worth it!
What does Speed climbing mean to the Huber brothers? Is it just a race against the clock or something more profound?
Speed climbing is without a doubt a big adventure. We're significantly exposed to risk and in the end it is this risk which determines the final time of ascent. If someone hoping to set a new record isn't prepared to accept this level of risk then he's failed before even starting! What is important though is to realistically judge one's ability level, otherwise the results could be fatal.
Congratulations for this speed record on The Nose. Do you now want to climb it free?
It the past few years we often, really often travelled to Yosemite. At the moment we're clearly drawn in by the world's other mountain ranges.
Video © Heinz Wurzer