The most glorious chunk of rock on earth.
At least that’s the way veteran climber Hans Florine describes it (and perhaps you, too).
So paramount and so iconic, that I’d bet you already knew I was referring to Yosemite’s El Capitan—a sweeping 3,000 vertical feet of glaciated granite that rises up from the valley floor. Climbers simply can’t help themselves; it is glorious. Watch this, in case you need a reminder.
But few people on this planet know its most famous route—The Nose—as well as Hans, himself. A man so utterly infatuated by every crack and crevice of that aesthetic line that he has devoted more of his time (or more accurately, time shaving off time) on that route than any other climber on this planet. With over 101 ascents of that route and over 161 on El Capitan itself, Hans has unquestionably carved an indelible mark on the history of Yosemite climbing.
It would be ignorant not to mention his greatest claim to fame: his and partner Alex Honnold’s current (mindblowing) speed record on The Nose of two hours, 23 minutes, and 46 seconds set in 2012—over 480 times faster than Warren Harding’s first ascent in 1958. That record achievement is one that Hans has fought for and regained numerous times in his career.
But while time has consistently been a measure of Hans’ accomplishments, in his new memoir, On The Nose — A Lifelong Obsession with Yosemite’s Most Iconic Climb, we see that his passion for that granite chunk of rock extends far beyond his seconds shaved and times summited. Instead, it relates far more to the vast memories and evolution of rock climbing he has witnessed and contributed to over the past three decades.
In On The Nose, we join Hans on an intimate journey into many of his 101 adventures on that historic route: beginning with his very first attempts as an amateur dirtbag big waller in 1989, to the days he successfully tackled more than one big wall route … in just a single day.
Having climbed The Nose with at least 87 different individuals—some of which include an 11-year-old, a 64-year-old, Steve Schneider, Lynn Hill, Beth Rodden, Peter Croft, Alex Honnold, and a blind climber, too—we quickly discover that even the same route can deliver an everlasting array of experiences and lessons to be learned.
Through the lively retelling of these stories—supported by co-writer and partner on The Nose, Jayme Moye—the reader feels strapped into a harness of excitement alongside Hans and company; a lens that will compel you as a climber to let out a “can you believe that” and “did you know?!” at least a dozen times.
You might question his sanity: why climb the same route over 101 times? In response, he puts it like this:
I’m not sure that’s the right question. How about this one. Why on earth woud anyone work a job they don’t care about for 261 days a year, every year? Or this one: Why would someone who has a choice settle for “good enough” instead of going after great?
When it comes to understanding Hans, this book’s authentic perspective reveals the true motivation behind his need for speed: he climbs fast so that he can climb more. He truly loves every aspect of rock climbing and has dedicated every aspect of his life to it.
On The Nose guides us on the energizing lifecycle of a true rock climbing lifer: from gumby status to professional climber, to a mentor for climbers and non-climbers alike.
It was a risky investment … but the return has been huge. In a way, I can tie everything and everyone I love most in life back to The Nose.
The best part of it all? He’s not even close to finished.
To learn more about Hans and his passion for speed and The Nose, check out this interview.
Want more climbing content? Get our awesome climbing newsletter, delivered weekly.
- Our 30+ most popular articles ever
- An Interview with Veteran Climber, Lynn Hill
- A Look at Speed Climbing: An Interview with Hans Florine
- Video: Jorg Verhoeven’s Ascent of El Capitan’s The Nose
- Essay: Chasing Dreams — El Capitan Free Climbing
- Video: The El Cap Bridge: A Special Place for Yosemite’s Big Wall Climbers
- How to Build a Trad Rack
- Video: A Speed Ascent of El Cap Testpiece, Zenyatta Mondatta
- Video: To Yosemite, With Love
- Pitch 27: A Journey for The Nose in a Day
- Get daily updates by Liking us on Facebook
- Free rock climbing PDFs on technique, training, knots, and more