Days after two of the world’s most celebrated rock climbers twice set astonishingly fast records on the biggest wall in Yosemite National Park, they did it again Wednesday, breaking a mark compared with track’s four-minute mile.
Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell scaled El Capitan’s 3,000-foot (915 meters) sheer granite wall in 1:58:07, said photographer Austin Siadak, who is documenting the climb for a film.
The blisteringly fast pace capped weeks of practice climbs up the so-called Nose route that runs up the middle of the massive monolith towering above Yosemite Valley. It also came just days after two speed climbers fell to their deaths on El Cap.
Hans Florine, who has held the speed record for the climb on and off between 1990 and 2012, said the new mark is equivalent to the ongoing quest to break the two-hour marathon or Roger Bannister’s 1954 achievement in the mile.
“We were pushing the five-hour barrier before and then the four-hour barrier and then the three-hour barrier. So which one of those is the four-minute mile?” Florine said before the mark was broken. “I think it is getting close.”
Climbing times on El Cap have fallen precipitously since the first ascent of the cliff 60 years ago by Warren Harding and two others. That milestone took 12 days in a final push that followed 48 days of advance work over 18 months as Harding pounded bolts into the route to aid his climb.
“As I hammered in the last bolt and staggered over the rim, it was not at all clear to me who was the conqueror and who was the conquered,” Harding said afterward. “I do recall that El Cap seemed to be in much better condition than I was.”
Yosemite is mecca for climbers around the world because of its vast array of beautiful soaring granite walls and peaks. El Cap, though, looms largest and offers 58 distinct routes. The Nose is the best known and typically takes accomplished climbers four or five days.
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