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The Nose, by a Shoestring 10/28/01

By Jim Herson

Rebuttal By Hans Florine

The Ashok version

Here's the abridged version of what follows for those of you with a trip report endurance of 1/4 paragraph:

Hans climbs fast.

Hans likes Nose.

Jim likes Salathe.

Greg is a pest.

Hans and Jim climb Nose fast and then play on Salathe.

Still with me Ashok?

Coalition building makes for some strange bedfellows indeed. While our goals were wildly disparate our ultimate objectives were remarkably similar: to land on top of El Capitan early in the day.

Hans' motivation for an early summit was straight forward enough. He had temporarily misplaced his 10 year old Nose speed climbing record. I'm not saying that Hans was anxious to restore the proper order of things but I have seen rottweilers at meal time show more ambivalence. My desire for a morning top out was, of course, much more complex. Last week after proposing to Anne on El Cap Spire I had walked away from the Salathe a fulfilled man (she said yes). I had achieved inner peace. Spiritual harmony. A Zen tranquility of joy and happiness. An enlightenment of the soul and an affirmation of life itself. I had put the Salathe and whatever unfinished business I might have had up there behind me. Indeed by the end of last week the twitching had noticeably lessened and there was talk of reducing the medication. And then late Friday afternoon The Pest whacked the hornets nest with this endearing bit of prenuptial advice:

  From: Greg 
  Subject: RE: InSpired: the *cliff* notes

  Further cautionary notes:
  Whereas Sisyphus was merely condemned to push a millstone of his own making
  alone, the tale of Ahab and his pursuit of the great white whale merits
  further consideration.  As you will all recall, the book concludes with a
  stark image of the dead Ahab lashed to the side of Moby Dick (that is, the
  Salathe Wall).  Not content to suffer this obsession alone into eternity,
  the arm of Ahab (that is, Jim) waves back and forth beckoning us (that is,
  Anne) to join him in the purpetual chase.
  Think about it Anne.  It's not as if you couldn't do better.  Why, five
  minutes spent trolling with a 20 dollar bill in Camp 4 would likely turn up
  better, and certainly more emotionally balanced, prospects for matrimony.
  Nevertheless, I am looking forward to the champagne (a case should do quite
  nicely for me) and I do like smoked salmon on those nice cripsy melba toast
  cracker things.  As far as the main course, salmon again, but a red meat and
  vegatarian selection is almost mandatory these days.  Dessert will be tricky
  because of the exceptioanlly high standards i bring to the banquet.  This
  deserves some thought and creativity and I'll get back to you on this.
  However,  do NOT go with one of the soul-less, anonymous white cake with
  white frosting option no matter what.
  Good luck
Obviously by that evening the rage was roaring such that some soothing Salathe quality time was the only hope of containing it. Saturday's scheduled all day nursery school Halloween carnival blowout, though doubtless a romping good time, was just not going to cut it.

Fortunately Hans and I had been in the middle of protracted Salathe / Nose negotiations. After carefully detailing my long term strategic plans I proposed that if he were to help me dial the Salathe into submission I would be willing to form a task force to explore the possibility of a zippy Nose ascent. I made it clear that it would require multiple runs up the Nose given that it had been a while since I last climbed the route. Hans was, shall we say, less than sympathetic to my plight. Nevertheless I sent Hans a note Friday evening at 9pm offering a 6hr Nose "training"!!! run in exchange for a TR on the Headwall afterwards. In true bipartisan spirit Hans wrote back "OK, we go for the record on Sunday."

Sunday morning in El Cap Meadows I reiterated my long term strategic plans although it should be noted that my long term planning is typically carried out with an egg-timer. Hans' infectious enthusiasm quickly got the better of me and the countless years of Salathe prep work were suddenly tossed out the window.

An Olympic commentator once offered this profound insight into the intricate strategy that enabled Janet Evans to dominate any swimming event she entered. "She likes to grab the lead early and build on it." Fair enough. Hans and I thought a similarly nuanced strategy might help us on the Nose.

One problem: my body, still reeling from the ravages of pregnancy, was in no mood for the 34 grueling pitches of the Nose. So instead we did it in two, albeit with lots of loop drops to restock gear, sharing one "belay", technically defined as both climbers being within physical range of each other which in our case occurred mid swing on our patented pendulum gear swap. The gratuitous "belay" allowed me, as Hans' emotional goto man, to help the young pup work through all the complex and frightening challenges of new fatherhood. In guy speak this took the form of "Here's the rack. Stop dawdling!!" I lead to the top of the Boot soaking up Hans' flawless simul climbing belay. By simply losing myself in the intrinsic beauty of Yosemite Valley I could block out whatever it was Hans must have been doing down there and the waves of nausea would quickly pass. 0:21 to Sickle and 1:06 to the top of Texas which by Hans' calculations put us on a 3:18 pace. We replenished the rack at Sickle and at Texas which was silly as we opted instead for the cool runout Boot Flake/King Swing leader swap based on Brian's convincing demonstration way back in the day that Boot Flake doesn't hold gear anyway.

And then Hans took over and other than serious whiplash the ride to the top was bliss. That is bliss other than one small horrific, humiliating, unforgivable, bonehead bungle. As Hans was ripping through the Great Roof I had the only 30 seconds of rest all morning. Suddenly I was overwhelmed by a sense of total nakedness being caught on El Capitan with just one pair of climbing shoes! To control the hyperventilation I feign a shoe exchanged by tightening an already overly tight shoe.


Never in human history has a 41 year old man been so distraught over a broken shoelace! Like a teenage derelict who might have some trepidation about explaining to his parents the demolished family auto, I just couldn't bring myself to fess up to Hans that I had just totally and completely screwed up. It must have been what has been described to me as having compassion for ones partner. What a strange and creepy feeling.

I was kind of hoping Hans might have blocked out our first attempt at climbing fast which got off to a rough start when, after schleping two hours to the base of Half Dome, I unpacked only two climbing shoes--both lefties. He hadn't forgotten.

I frantically and painstakingly coaxed my ratty, fuzzy, chalk bag string through the pinhole eyelets of my shoe while Hans cooled his heels for what seemed like an eternity. This was fortunate as it sent Hans into a catatonic state which deadened the pain when a few minutes later he discovered that he was speed climbing El Cap with a goof who couldn't jummar! Eventually after getting hopelessly tangled in the aiders I just packed them away and climbed out. On route we passed two sweet, friendly parties one of which I kicked in the head and the other I fell on.

Eking out the record (3:57) was hardly a consolation for the shoelace debacle. After all, the excuse is a high art form and, in fact, my core competency. I have volumes of clever, intricate, innovative excuses for failing on climbs and a broken shoelace is just not one of them. Not since Tonya Harding so elegantly begged the Olympic judges for a postponement of her hurting long program has a shoelace caused such humiliation. Now I find myself in the infuriating position of having to convince Hans to climb the Nose again just so we can nail a decent time on the second best rock climb in the world.

On the summit we finally got to start our day and put that whole messy approach behind us. We walked over and rapped into the Salathe for some sublime TRing on the Headwall. As always a day spent on the Salathe worked its magic, easily restoring both my chi and Hans' tattered nerves.


Jim "the shoe guy" Herson Climbs El Cap AND! it's not the Salathe! 10/30/01

By Hans Florine

Thursday and Friday I made some suggestions to Jim. Since Jim is newly engaged I suggested he go for a speed run up the Nose with me and be done with El Cap by noon and down to spend time with his fiancee' and daughter... rather than spend a protracted effort on that route over to the left, begins with an "S", can't think of the name just now.

Friday evening he rebuts that he'd go up the Nose with me, but only as an "approach" to going to the top of the "S route" and lowering into the headwall top pitchs. I agreed.

Sunday morning we rendezvoused in El Cap meadow at 7:30 or was it 8:30 or maybe it was 6:30, the daylight savings time changeover made things screwy. alas after we both got there, it was looking OK for our rack and sling negotiations as Jim said that I could put it all together since I had the Nose route pretty dialed. Of course when it came down to it he had his two cents to add as I clipped pieces on and off the rack. No sooner than an hour and 18 minutes later we were agreed on the rack AND Slings, and were walking to the base.

All was well, Jim had matching shoes, one left and one right, - lots of chalk, enough slings, and a blonde ready to belay. With a liesurely start of 10:33, or in "new time" 9:33, we began the first pitch.

Jim led me up to the end of sickle where I handed back the rack to him and he led to the top of Texas before he had to haul up the gear on the outside of Texas flake. We passed an Australian party, just after Dolt, going for The NIAD and Jim managed to kick both of them in the head as he went by. I knew one of them and both didn't seem to hostile to me for the damage done by my partner.

From the boot flake I took over the lead, - My first time ever with Jim! I was soon to learn that without Jim's own jugs and etriers, he don't like jugging, and will avoid it at all cost. I, not knowing this, had him using my "trick setup" and things got called out on the fly - fix the line I'm batmaning it, just put in a belay and I'll come up there- it'll be faster, let's simul climb(but Jim had no Gri gri, so he'd just tie in and wing it behind me. did I mention that Jim doesn't really like belaying with a Gri gri, while simulclimbing behind someone.- I just found out myself that morning.), etc.....

As I'm leading the Great Roof pitch I notice Jim has his shoe off. - hmm, I think, that's pretty bold of him to think that I'll take so long on this pitch that he can take his shoes off. I hear some cursing and yell down asking if he dropped his shoe? nope not that, he's broken his shoelace!

As I finish the Great roof lead he's still got his shoe off! I yell down for him to tape it or wrap the lace around the outside, - You're just jugging from here to the top!- you don't need a perfect lace job, get going! I think he took the cord from his chalkbag belt and substituted it for his lace that broke. I roll my eyes of course once I find this out and just get on with the task of leading - as we are with in striking range of the record despite Jim's 10 minute delay with the shoe snafu.

As we arrive at camp six, 3 hours and 24 minutes have expired since the start. Jim seems to have things down the last few pitches and I can't shake him. Every time I short fix he's at the anchors before I can get 20 ft away from the belay. Then he's wanting to simul - climb stuff and thanks to his proper lacing job, he's tearing up the terrain below me. Now I really can't shake the guy. Jim restocks my gear one last time on the pitch above Camp six and I pull out all the tricks and "umpha" I have to string it to the top and not let Jim pass me by.

When I reach the finish anchors it's one more classic Jim beta where he wants to campus the bolt ladder, draws in hand, and have me belay him rather than jug the darn thing. I comply and the nut arrives at the top 3 hours, 57 minutes, and 27 seconds after we started at the base! I think my mouth hung open in astonishment for far too long. I even checked the timing math with Jim before fully grasping it.

After sitting in smiles and eating our energy bars for 30 minutes it was time to head west! darn away from the descent! and of course lower down into the S route. Jim made the crux move at the bottom of the headwall look like 5.9 and fell once somewhere on the crack, maybe twice, I opted to make Long ledge my low point and led the 12a face pitch. Jim took us off the top from there and we sprinted down the east ledges, not donning our head lamps til the forrest by Manure Pile. Back to the car by 6:15. (new daylight savings time).

And who says Sunday is best for rest?

winter is coming get your last routes in before the storms....

see ya in the gym.


From: Sherry Listgarten 

> Fortunately Hans and I had been in the middle of protracted Salathe /
> Nose negotiations. After carefully detailing my long term strategic
> plans I proposed

You proposed again?! Isn't once enough? Does Anne know about this?

-- Sherry.

From: Mike Ruby My god, Jim. When do you work?
From: Clint Cummins Dear Jim, Wow, amazing splits and the record "to boot"! I bet you've got some nice new shoelaces now. And good work helping Hans reclaim the record. I enjoyed Greg's email as well! The best I could do on speed records in recent memory was to squeak into the Oakdale McDonald's at 10:58pm to grab a pair of 39 cent cheeseburgers. Sincerely, Clint
From: Mark Hudon Guys, I just heard about your speed ascent of the Nose from Bill Wright. Good work!!!!! That is so bad ass! I wish I had been there to watch.
From: "Bill Wright" Brilliant...as usual. I need to start using phrases like: core competency similarly nuanced strategy emotional goto man Jim, what do you do for living? You are such a gifted writer... I suspect "convincing Hans to climb the Nose again" will not be so difficult. I talked with Hans Sunday night for an hour. I urged him to do the speed ascent again. Given what you guys did on Half Dome on your second attempt... You climbed the top part of the Nose without jumars? And this is faster? Doesn't this preclude short-fixing? I want more details on how you do this. When you climbed Half Dome for speed, you grabbed lots of gear, right? At what level did you think you free climbed on the ZigZags? Was it still 5.11? I need to take some more laps out there...
From: Ashok Singhal Jim, Jim, Jim. "Executive Summary", not "Cliff Notes". Ashok
From: Sam Joffe stupendous! i'm thinking about proposing myself. she got me some gnarly tele boots for my birthday Sam
From: courtney smith jj: something tells me you are getting quite a bit of grief for the "shoestring" incident. somehow, it reminds me of the socks i had back in the bachelor days. i could see that there were holes in them, but i could flip the sock around and essentially create a new life for it... the hole just ventilated another side of my foot. the sock analogy isn't quite working the magic i envisioned it to. keep the trip reports coming ... and keep an eye out on the shoestrings... courtney p.s. where does Winnedumah Paiute Monument rank on the list of all time great climbs?
From: Hans Florine To: "speedy gonzales" Subject: Doing it again! NOSE cleaning. Date: Fri, 2 Nov 2001 22:22:31 -0800 I hear that Timmy ONeill and Dean Potter climbed the Nose today, Friday November 2nd, in 3 hours, 24 minutes, and 4 seconds. Unfortunately I have no details as I was up on Aquarian wall when they did the climb. Sports Illustrated had messages for me and called me this evening - looking for information on past records etc... Timmy and Dean are big time! A spectacular job! Congratulations to them both! Hans
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