Home/Mountaineering/Yosemite Rock information

Setting the Half Dome speed record


"Hans": "Lefty!" - "Lefty!"

By Hans Florine

Well, we were planning to do the RNWF on Half Dome and then go for some fun free climbing on the Zebra apres. Jim Herson came out to my home at a respectable hour on Saturday evening, we had the rack ready and food devoured long before 10 pm. Albeit an incredible haggling match between he and me over number of runners and biners to bring. JEEZ - the guy wants to bring 50 runners! I did talk him down to only 15 runners and 10 draws. I thought for sure we'd get to the base and he'd pull out 40 - - - saying "oh look I forgot these were in the bottom of my pack, guess we might as well take them along!"

Getting to bed before 11pm I figured there would be no praise for us doing a big day on limited sleep as Jim's idea of an early start time is 9am. I talked him into a 6 am wake up. BUT I heard strange noises at 3am, and shook it off figuring it was some vagabond climber just dropping in after a long Saturday wall. When I went to wake up Jim at 6 am he grimaced that it was him that was up half the night not able to sleep until just then when I woke him. so he requests we put the wake up off for 2 hours. I comply of course. but again woken up before the two hours have expired Jim is rustling about not able to sleep.

We leave the stables parking lot at 8:24 am and despite Jim's lake of enthusiasm towards setting a hiking record we made it to the base in a respectable 1 hour and 57 minutes.

Now we're at the base and it's time to flake the ropes and gear up. I had heard that Jim was anal about his shoes so was not surprised to see two types of climbing shoes roll out of his pack, presumably one pair for the Zebra free climbing and a comfy pair for the regular route. Jim informed me that he had left one pair in the trunk at the last minute since our start was so late he figured he wouldn't need the Zebra free climbing shoes. I was a little perplexed seeing that there was still two types of shoes coming out of his pack. then Jim started in cursing this and that, and apologizing as if he'd forgot the rack. then I saw that he definitely had two types of shoes and they were BOTH LEFTIES! One left Boreal Ballet and one left Boreal Laser!

After a numerous rounds of self abasement by Jim, realization that Greg Murphy would never let Jim live this down, and various offers to keep me silent, finally the reality options were discussed. Hans's dislike for the Half Dome hike and common sense dictated that we climb the route anyway and try to just have fun, there's a novel thought.

So with a left Ballet and a right Five tennie - tongue flapping approach shoe, Jim set off on the lead and I never was with in physical touching range of him till the summit blocks 2 hours and 25 minutes later! Despite missing the record we had a hell of a fun time. We passed 5 parties, two of which were doing it in a day, three people I knew - Willie and Damien Benegas, and Greg Lastname I forget. Not bad considering Jim said he might lower down after the first pitch if it didn't feel fun!

I figured I should try for another record once on top which is the descent of the cables. I finally I remembered to stop the watch at the bottom this time. The time to beat: 2 minutes 23 seconds. I time from the top huge eye bolt anchoring the cable in the granite to the same on the bottom.

We carried down four nasty tourist baseball caps, one straw hat, about 12 thrashed plastic bottles, 6 tin cans, numerous energy bar wrappers, assorted brown bags, and one discarded #1 Taylor made driving golf club head!? This we did instead of checking out the Zebra.

Needless to say Jim didn't come up with an offer to keep me silent. Don't be too hard on him Greg et all, he may just have you on belay in the near future

Sling Diplomacy, round 2

By James Herson

Climbing with Hans Florine is not unlike touring the Louvre in a bullet train. It is not the alpine, solitary, contemplative retreat you might expect. Nor is it the spiritual growth big wallers painstakingly undergo as doubt, fear, and self pity give way to confidence, courage, and self pity. No, climbing with Hans is to flaunt contempt for the length, difficulty, and historic significance of the Valley's tallest. Gosh, is it fun!

Embarking on a mission that made Albright's Mideast shuttle diplomacy look like umpiring a Little League scrimmage, Hans and I returned to the negotiating table to explore a framework for that seemingly intractable sling thing. For those not familiar with the religious fervor ignited by this thorny issue it seems Hans, the big stud muffin, can't be burdened to climb with an extra 6 grams of nylon webbing??? Unfortunately I've grown much too proficient at coddling these overgrown, high maintenance, needy partners [Hi Greg, Chan, Peter, Jeff!]. You can't just silence them with a plate of grub [Hi Allen, Chris, Jacques!] or cheap red wine [Hi Ann!]. You have to give, give, give and only then hope their whining subsides. Kara can't be weaned soon enough so dad gets back his #1 partner who, I might add, enthusiastically defers to *all* my climbing/gear brainstorms!

Anyway all I could squeeze out of Hans, the Netanyahu of sling negotiations, was a meager two slings per pitch for the pitches we planned to link. In exchange I had to forfeit the aiders.

Also, rather than catch more flack for thinking outside the box I decided, at the cost of great personal discomfort, to wear both left and right climbing shoes this round.

After meticulously racking the perfect Halfdome rack of ~50 items, (slings, biners, and cams) I gave Hans a gri-gri and quart of water to hold. He remembered to bring one of them. Ironically on my first trip up the Dome one of my partners was also a very tall, long haired, goofy blond who shortchanged me on the water [Hi Dave!].

Just as Robbins et al might have done 40 years ago had they thought to pack more slings, Hans and I fired the regular route in a zippy 1:53:25. I lead the pitch breaking stride once, in mid pendulum on the Robbin's, to spruce up the rack. Whatever headaches he caused in packing, the king of speed more than made up for with the perfect, cushy belay. Batting cleanup on these simul-climbs is best left for the master. Not only is falling *not* an option but you have to constantly throttle the lead rope, using the gri-gri, making sure never to slow the leader when he's on easy ground while keeping minimal slack in the system at all times. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't shake that blond maniac at the end of the rope yet I didn't get hosed once! And he quickly dispatched with the two (inevitable) rope snags. [On slow sections the second catches the first leaving long loops of rope to hang up.] Nice work Hansy!

Other than one small Tibloc mishaps that almost left me in a foul mood this morning [a Tibloc isn't designed and should *never* be used for simulclimbing -- 'nuff said] the climb was a blast! We blazed up to Big Sandy in 1:15. I lost a few minutes in the Zigzags as I was short a few draws (which I had left at the one gear exchange -- doh!) and had to back clean & conserve gear. We finished the route with a hip belay just like Robbins et al must have done 40 years ago.

We speculated that this was the first sub 2 hour grade VI which is weird if you consider a grade VI is the definition any climb longer than, say, 2, err, hours??? Anyway having now climbed a total of 48 pitches together in a bit over 4 hours Hans and I have yet to share a belay. He still has no idea I can't tie a cordelette...

Home/ Mountaineering/ Yosemite Rock information