WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS RACE
I HAVE TO ADMIT, I seriously questioned whether anyone could beat Alex Honnold (see profile page) and Hans Florine's (see profile page) record for the fastest time up the Nose of El Capitan in Yosemite Valley, California. But Brad Gobright and Jim Reynolds did just that, breaking the record by nearly four minutes, scaling the 3,000 iconic route in 2:19:44!
Over next few decades, the record was broken at least 18 times by some of the most prestigious big wall climbers of our time. Most notably, Hans Florine, who was undefeated in speed competitions for five years straight, winning three gold medals in the summer X-Games, set the speed record for a yet another record: 8 times!
The Huber Brothers
"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."
By 2002, the race really heated up. Florine teamed up with Yuji Harayama to establish a record that wouldn't be broken until 2007, by Alexander and Thomas Huber, the legendary Bavarian brothers. With the multiple free solos under their belts, the Huber brothers reportedly worked on breaking the record for three years. And in October 2007, they were able to achieve their goal by incorporating simulclimbing through the easier pitches. But their success didn't come without a price. On one of their 20 practice runs, Thomas Huber was seriously injured after taking huge 100' fall, thus delaying their efforts to following year when they returned to break the record. Their time: 2:48:55
But before we begin, I think it's important to have a little history lesson, so you can grasp the significance of this record. The first speed record was set back in 1975 by John Long, Jim Birdwell, and Billy Westbay. Their time: 14 hours and 55 minutes. According to Long, they weren't trying to set a record. They were simply trying to do 'The Nose' in day while there was still light. Now keep in mind, this was before the Nose became a trade route with dozens of fixed pieces. They didn't have ultra-light camming devices, sticky rubber shoes, or micro-thin climbing ropes. And, there were three of them, which, as we all know, adds a considerable amount of time logistically, just in switching leads, exchanging gear, and setting up belay stations.
Will the TWO HOUR barrier be broken? That is anyone's guess. But as Reynolds stated in the interview..."It's possible for sure. Just as it is to free solo 5.15. But is it a good idea? I don't know."
As for 'who' will likely break the two hour barrier - all eyes are on Alex Honnold, who just free soloed Free Rider on El Capitan, and Tommy Caldwell, who not only captured the first ascent of Dawn Wall 5.14d, but he has free climbed every pitch on the Nose in just 11 hours, only to descend the East Ledges and free climb every pitch on Free Rider in a combined time of 23 hours and 23 minutes. A feat that has yet been repeated.
If I were to place a bet, I would bet my money on them. So make sure you sign up. You don't want to miss our next issue in a Three Part Series - Part Two: The Women
"I'm going into it, with this idea, that this is super dangerous. I could get severely hurt or killed doing it."
"Our rack is rediculously small. We don't even take anything to eat or to drink. Before I go fot it, I feel like I'm going to vomit. You are going to be fighting for your life up there."
In 2008, Florine returned with Yuji Harayama to reclaim the record. Not once, but twice in the same year to break their own record with a time many believed would never be broken. Their time: 2:36:45
In 2017, Brad Gobright and Jim Reynolds, who weren't on anyone's radar, snatched the most coveted prize right from under everyone's noses. Although neither climber had received as much media attention as Hans Florine, Alex Honnold, Dean Potter, or Huber brothers, it's crystal clear they should have been.
In 2010, Dean Potter teamed up with Sean Leary, after being absent from the competive scene for nearly a decade, when his record was broken in 2001 by Florine and Jim Hersen, to reclaim the record by a mere 20 seconds. See video below. Their rivalry was legendary, and it was often fueled by the media who wanted the race to rage indefinitely. Note: in the same year, Leary teamed up with Alex Honnold to climb three El Cap routes in a single 24-hour period. And in 2012, Leary teamed up with Mayan Smith Gobat to establish a mixed male-female speed record for the Nose.
In 2012, Florine teamed up with legendary free soloing artist, Alex Honnold to take the record back. And take it back they did, by establishing an earth shattering time of 2:23.36.
For 5 years the record went unchallenged. Many believe that was due to the fact that Dean Potter and Sean Leary were both killed in base jumping accidents. Sean Leary died on 3/24/14 in Zion National Park (Read Article), while Dean Potter died the following year while attempting to wingsuit from Taft Point, a 7,500' overlook in Yosemite Valley. Read article.
For two years straight, Gobright and Reynolds, ran laps up the 31 pitch route, perfecting their technique and strategy for each of the pitches, until they were convinced they were in striking distance of the record.
THEN TRAGEDY STRUCK! Reynolds, a member of the Yosemite Search & Rescue (YOSAR), received a message indicating there was a climbing accident on El Cap. As quickly as he could, Reynold's peddled his mountain bike to the meadows at the base of El Cap. When he arrived, he was told there was a fatality. Only to have the status revised. The climber wasn't dead, but severely injured and in critical condition. The climber was Quinn Brett.
Although they weren't super close friends, they were friends by association, primarily with Josie McKee, a former member of YOSAR, who just happened to be Quinn Brett's climbing partner. When Reynolds learned they were attempting to break the women's Nose speed record, he wasn't sure how to be with it, especially considering they were preparing to break the men's record. To hear Jim Reynold's account of the rescue operation, and how it played with his head, please listen to the Podcast below.
As for Brad Gobright, who's being compared to Alex Honnold for his daring free solos up routes like the Rostrum (see photo below) in Yosemite, and Hairstyles & Attitudes, a multi-pitch 5.12c route in Eldorado Canyon, Colorado, he was all guns blazing, ready to make his bid for the record.
What kind of risks did they take? According to Gobright and Reynold's the risks were enormous, especially when they were simulclimbing with only a few pieces between them. At any point, if either of them fell, they could have met the same fate as Quinn Brett or worse.
"It was the most enjoyable, and hardest, and most dangerous thing I've ever done in climbing!"
NOSE SPEED CLIMBING RECORDS
2017-10/21 Jim Reynolds, Brad Gobright Time: 2:19:44
2012-6/17 Hans Florine, Alex Honnold Time: 2:23:46
2010-11/6 Dean Potter, Sean Leary Time: 2:36:45
2008-10/12 Hans Florine, Yuji Hirayama Time: 2:37:05
2008-7/2 Hans Florine, Yuji Hirayama Time: 2:43:33
2007-10/8 Alexander and Thomas Huber Time:2:45:45
2007-10/4 Alexander and Thomas Huber Time: 48:30
2002-9/29 Hans Florine, Yuji Hirayama Time: 2:48:55
2001-11 Dean Potter, Timmy O'Neill Time: 3:24:20
2001-10 Hans Florine, Jim Herson Time: 3:57:27
2001-10 Dean Potter, Timmy O'Neill Time: 3:59:35
1992 Hans Florine, Peter Croft Time: 4:22
1991 Peter Croft, Dave Schultz Time: 4:48
1991 Hans Florine, Andres Puhvel Time: 6:01
1990 Peter Croft, Dave Schultz Time: 6:40
1990 Hans Florine, Steve Schneider Time: 8:06
1986 John Bachar, Peter Croft Time: 10:05
1984 Duncan Critchley, Romain Vogler0 9:30
1975 Jim Bridwell, John Long, Billy Westbay 14:55
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BRAD GOBRIGHT & JIM REYNOLDS
THE WORLD''S FASTEST BIG WALL CLIMBERS