Honnold and Caldwell Break Two Hours on El Cap’s Nose
Over the past week, the duo has made repeated attempts to climb the Nose route on Yosemite's El Capitan in under two hours. They finally succeeded.
For exclusive access to all of our fitness, gear, adventure, and travel stories, plus discounts on trips, events, and gear, sign up for Outside+ today.
After three weeks of practice runs, two broken records, and one hundred-foot fall, Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold became the first people to climb the Nose route on Yosemite’s El Capitan in under two hours. On Wednesday morning, they topped out the 3,000-foot hunk of granite in 1 hour, 58 minutes, and 7 seconds after they left the valley floor.
It’s hard to overstate just how ridiculously fast that is. They averaged a time of 3 minutes and 48 seconds over each of the 31 pitches, moving at a rate of more than 25 feet per minute. For context, most parties take around three days to climb the route.
Last October, when Brad Gobright and Jim Reynolds knocked the record down to 2:19:44—shaving four minutes off the then-fastest time held by Honnold and Hans Florine—it felt like they might remain on top of the record books for at least a little while. Turns out, they were only on top for a single winter. Last Wednesday, Honnold and Caldwell knocked the time down to 2:10:15. “From the get go, we’ve been talking about sub-two,” Honnold told Outside shortly after that record. “I think we can. We’re going to keep trying a bit.”
On Monday, they climbed the route in 2:01:53, despite a stuck rope near the top that cost them at least two minutes. “We’re both adapting to the level of effort,” Honnold said. “We've been climbing the Nose four days a week for three weeks. This climb felt more casual than our 2:10 climb.”
If you were following their progress, sub two hours started to feel inevitable, even to the two climbers. “That’s totally how it felt,” Honnold said this morning. “Each time we were improving a bit. Today honestly wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough, so we’re psyched.”
For his part, Caldwell was worried that he wouldn't be able to keep up with Honnold. “I’m getting kind of old,” he said. “But Alex has a way of whipping me into shape.”
Honnold feels that the true human potential on the route is closer to 1:30 or 1:15, though they won’t be trying again any time soon. “We’re totally over it,” Honnold said. “Not trying again.”
“We definitely did it way safer than we could have and it felt very reasonable the whole time,” Caldwell said. “But it’s been stressful for our family and friends.”
Will Gobright and Reynolds take another shot? “I’m inspired and relieved they got their sub-two-hour time today,” Gobright said. “It’s the proudest speed climbing ascent to have happened in the history of U.S rock climbing. I’m proud Jim Reynolds and I held the record for a bit of time but in all honesty our time is no where close to their time. The level of talent and confidence required to climb El Cap that fast is hard for me to grasp. Part of me would be excited to see someone try to break it but deep down I hope no one tries. At least not in my lifetime.”