Posts Tagged ‘El Capitan’


Congratulations are in order to Major Phil Packer

June 12, 2009

Our congratulations go to Phil Packer for summiting El Capitan successfully.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, page down or go to ‘extreme personalities’ in our sidebar and read my first article on this courageous and inspirational man, although this quick video from andrew3631 will help:

Having been paralysed when the vehicle he was traveling in, in Iraq, was hit by a rocket, Packer decided that life was not going to stop there, and having run the London Marathon, rowed across the English Channel, amongst other things, his final challenge to raise £1 million pounds for the charity he firmly believes in, ‘Help for Heroes’, was to summit El Capitan’s 3000 vertical feet in Yosemite National Park.

A seemingly impossible challenge one might imagine, seeing that many able-bodied people don’t manage it.

But, pulling himself up with his arms only, Phil Packer has achieved the impossible – he summited El Cap in just 5 days.

He has also raised more than his initial £1 million gaol.

A hero himself and one worth emulating. So don’t whinge about life. Most of us have it really good. Get out there and prove yourself… if only to yourself.

Thank you to itnnews for the video and sorry I haven’t been able to get the one where he goes over the top – refusing help to the end, but it hasn’t yet made it onto YouTube…


A man who sets himself one challenge after another against extraodinary odds, to raise money to help others…

June 8, 2009

You might have heard of Major Phil Packer… the man who was paralysed in February last year when the vehicle he was in was hit by a rocket in Iraq. He suffered broken ribs and a crushed lower spine. He was the man who was told he would never walk again and yet he finished the London marathon, albeit painfully slowly, but remember – 18 months before the doctors said he would never get out of a wheelchair.

We like talking about extreme personalities and this is one man who is definitely worth a mention or two. Thanks to AffiliAid for this introductory video:

Phil Packer says: “From the original prognosis that I would never walk again, I have been very lucky and my injuries have improved. I set out to raise £1million by completing a number of challenges including 3 Main Events; Rowing the Channel, walking the London Marathon, and pulling myself up a Mountain. El Capitan is the last event before I concentrate on providing opportunities for people with disabilities and raising the profile of disability sports. I will travel to the USA during the first two weeks in June and with the expertise & support of Andy Kirkpatrick, Ian Parnell and Paul Tatersal, will pull myself up 1800ft in 3 days”.

A quick excerpt of Maj. Phil Packer completing the London Marathon (6MadeInEngland9):

and how he has successfully got others involved in his charity efforts (AffiliAid)

Packer started his 1,800 ft climb up the sheer rock face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park yesterday, 8th June.

His ascent of El Cap. is being attempted despite the fact that he was told he would never walk again.

Major Packer, who lives in Westminster, London, has said the three-day climb will be his final fundraising campaign before concentrating his efforts on promoting opportunities for disabled people.

Climbing a  rock face would be a challenge most of us would balk at but with a characteristic display of courage over disability, Major Packer is determined to conquer the face that many able-bodied people have failed to do.

Pulling yourself up with your arms (the equivalent of doing more than 4,000 push-ups) is a painfully slow way to scale a rock face and though he’s in constant pain since the rocket attack last year, it’s not enough to discourage him from taking up this challenge.

He wants to prove that his disability is no bar to rock climbing even though he’s no fan of its dizzying heights.

Unseasonable rain over the Yosemite Valley won’t make his task any easier though experience suggests this trifling inconvenience  won’t interrupt his attempt.

He and his team are climbing to support ‘Help for Heroes’ and to raise awareness of Disabled Climbing Opportunites.

El Capitan Pic

Packer’s live update of his climb states: “Great day, currently at 250 meters. Very tough, arms are tired, but every pull up is one pull up nearer the top. Passed Pitch 6 out of 16. Sleeping on a portaledge tonight.”

Having attempted and completed a marathon, kayaked, sky-dived with the Red Devils and accepted El Cap’s challenge,  Major Phil Packer is, in our opinion, the perfect candidate as one of our extreme sports personalities.

To find out more about him, or if you would like to contribute to his fund-raising efforts, please go to:

His is a noble cause and I will keep you posted on the climb…


Record breaking times on El Caps ‘The Nose’

April 6, 2009

“Pick a goal and do it. Find a big goal… something that’s fun so you can keep doing it a lot!” Hans Florine

Every serious climber knows El Capitan. It is as extreme as rock faces come and has long been considered ‘a classic’ around the world.

A sheer granite face rises 2,900 feet straight up.  A fall means certain death. It is one of the most hair-raising and arduous vertical climbs in the world and is arguably the single biggest rock climbing challenge.

Once considered impossible to climb it now sets the standard for big-wall climbing. The most popular and historically famous route is The Nose, which follows the massive prow between the south west and south east faces.

The Nose was first climbed in 1958 by a team of 3 who took 47 days using      ‘seige’ tactics to conquer it. They climbed in expeditionary style using ropes along the whole length of the route, establishing camps along the way. They relied heavily on aid climbing – using rope, pitons and expansion bolts to make it to the summit.

The next ascent, in 1960, took just 6 days by a team of 4. This was the first continuous climb of the route without siege tactics.

The first solo climb of The Nose was done by Tom Bauman in 1969, and the first single day ascent was accomplished in 1975 by John Long, Jim Bridwell and Billy Westbay.

Today The Nose attracts climbers of various experience and ability levels, and, with a success rate of around 60%, typically takes fit climbers 2-3 days of full climbing.

The Nose was first free-climbed in 1993 by Lynn Hill. On her second attempt she reached the summit after 4 days climbing. A year later, she returned to free climb it in a day, this time reaching the summit in just 23 hours and setting a new standard for free climbing on “El Cap.”

And then came speed climbing…

First up were Hans Florine,  who grew up in Moraga, California, and Yuji Hirayama,  of Hidaka, Japan who set the record at just under 3 hours. Then along came the  Huber brothers, from Germany, who, on the 17th October 2007, took 3 minutes off that time and set a new record at 2 hours, 48 minutes, and 35 seconds.

Florine was not new to the face. He first set The Nose speed record with Steve Schneider in 1991, reaching the top in 8 hours and 6 minutes. It was broken a week later. It has since been broken nine times, Florine repeatedly reclaiming the fastest time. World renowned climber Dean Potter and he traded The Nose record several times starting in 2001, prompting one magazine to run a photo illustration of them glaring at each other.

Having had their record broken by the Huber brothers, Florine, now 44, and Hirayama, 39, were determined to get it back and on July 2nd, 2008 they pulled themselves over the top of the immense slab of granite and touched the tree that serves as the finish line in just 2 hours, 43 minutes and 33 seconds – meaning they averaged about 17.7 feet per minute. It was 2 minutes and 12 seconds faster than the Huber brother’s record breaking climb. At one point, the pair were 10 minutes ahead of the record pace, but mistakes and exhaustion slowed the climbers down.

Speed climbers Hans Florine (left), of Lafayette, and Yuj... (Michael Maloney / The Chronicle)

2008 was the 50th anniversary of that first ascent, which was, remember, accomplished in 47 days. Tom Frost, a 72-year-old Yosemite legend who, along with Royal Robbins and two other partners, pulled off the second ascent of the Nose back in 1960, in six days, couldn’t have said it better:

“This is cutting edge, traditional Yosemite climbing, the best it gets. I joke with Hans” he said “about how we knocked five weeks off the record compared to, what, just a few minutes?”

Thirteen climbers have been killed in nine separate accidents on the route since 1973, when Michael Blake, 19, of Santa Monica fell 2,800 feet after his body weight yanked a bolt out of the wall and severed his rope. Twenty-four people have died on El Capitan since 1905, sometimes because they forgot to do something as simple as tying a knot.

Speed climbing is even more risky – forcing climbers to scale large sections of the route virtually unprotected – but it has become an integral part of the history of Yosemite.

If you’re trying to get your head around that record-breaking time – 2 hours 43 minutes and 33 seconds, here are some amusing facts to compare it with:


  • That’s a minute faster than the average length of a major-league baseball game in 1986 (but those have generally gotten longer since then).
  • It’s the same length as the epic 2004 Brad Pitt-Orlando Bloom film “Troy.”
  • And it’s two minutes shorter than the time it took for the Titanic to sink below the surface after its iceberg collision on April 14, 1912.

Enjoy this excerpt of their climb, with thanks to 1stonemaster for posting it.


10 Rock Faces to Climb in North America

September 5, 2008

This is by no means a definitive list of the top ten climbs, nor are they necessarily the most extreme rock climbs out there, but if you’re looking for a fun day (or two) out with a challenging rock face infront of you, and you’re in the area… well try one of these.

El Capitan, California Nose Route VI 5.11 A3 and Salathe Wall VI 5.10 A3

Fondly known as ‘El Cap’, this huge lump of granite – a 3,000ft (910m) vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park was once considered impossible to climb, but is now the standard for big-wall climbing. “El Cap” has two main faces, the Southwest (on the left when looking directly at the wall) and the Southeast. Between the two faces juts a massive prow. While today there are numerous established routes on both faces, the most popular and historically famous route is The Nose, which follows the massive prow. however, there are more than a dozen routes up the granite face, all of which are lengthy and complicated.

Half Dome Northwest Face VI 5.9 A3 or 5.11

Also in Yosemite National Park this is another imposing lump of granite and is possibly Yosemite’s most recognised site. It rises more than 4,737 ft (1,444 m) above the valley floor. You can actually hike to the top of The Dome using a trail and cable route that was erected in 1919, but I imagine you rock climbing enthusiasts out there would consider this a poor sort of way to spend a day. So for the serious rock climbers there are over a dozen rock climbing routes leading from the valley up Half Dome’s vertical northwest face. Other routes ascend the south face and the west shoulder. Bear in mind that the Regular north West Face is a 5-day climb!

Tahquitz Rock, California

This massive 1,000ft rock face is sometimes known as Lily Rock. It is located on the high western slope of the San Jacinto mountain range in southern California and is above the mountain town of Idyllwild. It has a steep approach hike (approximately 800ft elevation in a half mile) which makes it both a popular hiking destination and rock climbing area. More than a dozen routes have been established ranging well into the 5.10 territory. It is also where the Yosemite Decimal grading system was developed. It is considered one of the best free climbs in southern California.

A view of Tahquitz from Suicide Rock, showing both the rock outcrop and the peak

Moab, Utah

Considered the Mecca for desert climbing, Moab has a great variety of climbs on the sandstone towers of the Colorado Plateau. It can get crowded, but the wide selection for beginners, moderate climbers, and bouldering is unparalleled. Delicate Arch as seen below is CLOSED to climbers.

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park near Moab

Smith Rock, Oregon

The birthplace of modern sport/rock climbing has more than a 1,000 different routes, many of the most challenging on the planet, that have been climbed by some of the best in the sport. They are considered cutting-edge even by today’s standards. Its sheer cliffs of tuff and basalt are ideal for rock climbing of all difficulty levels.

A scenic view of Smith Rock, central Oregon.

Stone Mountain, North Carolina

Stone Mountain has some of the best friction climbing anywhere – a 600ft (183m) granite dome. Although there are some moderate routes, climbing here can be intimidating due to the featureless nature of the rock and the exposure. A rebolting project in the late 90s by the Carolina Climbers Coalition and the state Park Service replaced all the original bolts and established solid rap stations on most routes.

Rocky Mountain National Park offers a lifetime’s worth of spires, snow couloirs, ice smears and ski descents.

Longs Peak

This peak has long been of interest to climbers. The easiest route is not “technical” during the summer season (mid July to early September), and was probably first used by American Indians collecting eagle feathers, but the East Face of the mountain is quite steep, and is topped by a gigantic sheer cliff known as “The Diamond”. There is also the popular Keyhole Route which is open all year but is upgraded out-of-season to “technical” as treacherous ice formation and snow fall necessitates the use of specialized climbing equipment including, at a minimum, crampons and an ice axe.

Flatirons, Boulder, Colorado

And then there are the spectacular Flatirons, rising like thousand-foot spikes out of the base of the Rockies, with climbing at grades accessible to almost everyone. Yvon Chouinard called the East Face of the Third Flatiron, 1,300 feet long and rated 5.4, “The finest beginner’s climb in the country.” As a bonus, these amazing formations are within walking distance to the downtown pubs.

View of the first through fifth Flatirons (right to left, north to south) from Chautauqua Park on a winter morning

Devil’s Tower, Wyoming

In recent years, climbing Devils Tower National Monument has increased in popularity. Today hundreds of climbers scale the sheer rock walls of Devils Tower each summer. These climbers ascend climbing routes on every side, climbing up the various vertical cracks and columns of the rock. The difficulty of these routes vary greatly, ranging from relatively easy to some of the hardest in the world.

Devils Tower National Monument

Cathedral Ledge, New Hampshire 5.6 – 5.11

Because of its easy access and routes of all grades and styles, Cathedral has been deservedly popular for decades. Though new route potential exists, the classic lines receive most of the attention. Routes like Thin Air (5.6), Recompense (5.9), and The Prow (5.11) may see many ascents each weekend. Cathedral has something for everyone as the cliff offers long multi pitch routes, face climbs, splitter cracks, and even a few dubious quality sport routes. From short practice climbs at the North End to the soaring Yosemite-style aid routes of the Central Wall, everyone can be happy at Cathedral Ledge. Some might say that Cathedral Ledge is now a bit out of fashion – but how can a rock which offers something for everyone, and a brilliant climb at that, ever be out of fashion?

Thank you to for this picture. I am sure if you get onto his website he will have many more beautiful photographs. I scoured the web for a good photo of Cathedral Ledge, but this was definitely the best…

Panoramic of Cathedral Ledge. Consists of 3 digital images stitched together.

El Capitan record missed by minutes

July 1, 2008

A big shout of thanks goes out to Peter Fimrite of the San Francisco Chronicle who wrote this story of a US/Japanese attempt to break the time record for climbing El Capitan, currently held by the Huber brothers from Germany.

‘The climb straight up the Nose of El Capitan in the Yosemite National Park ended Sunday in dramatic fashion with Lafayette climber Hans Florine scrambling on his hands and feet, exhausted, his gear hanging off of him, as he desperately pushed to beat the world’s record. He came close, but missed by 2 1/2 minutes. Florine and his climbing partner, Yuji Hirayama, made the ascent up the 2,900-foot wall in 2 hours, 47 minutes and 30 seconds, the second-fastest time ever.

“I’m disappointed,” said Florine, 44. “I wanted it. I wanted the pressure to be off. … But I think we showed everybody today that we can break it.”

Florine, a former All America pole vaulter who grew up in Moraga, and Hirayama, 39, of Hidaka, Japan, plan to go for it again Wednesday. If they fail again, the record will be safe until September, when Hirayama plans to return for an all-out assault, complete with television crew.

The duo is trying to take back the record on the world famous Nose route from German brothers Thomas and Alexander Huber, who raced up the cliff face in a death-defying two hours and 45 minutes in October, smashing Florine and Hirayama’s previous record by three minutes.

“We can cut 15 to 20 minutes if we can take these next two days to recover physically and if we do better technically,” said Hirayama, after a confidence-boosting dip in the Merced River. “But that is a big hope. You have to have big goals, big hope, you know.”

Florine has been competing for 17 years with other climbers for the fastest time on the Nose, the most prominent and popular climbing route on El Capitan, but the quest for the record has become increasingly difficult and risky.

The Hubers, known as two of the strongest, most technically skilled and daring climbers in the world, accomplished the task after months of practice over two years. Two years ago, they had to suspend operations after Thomas Huber was seriously injured in a fall.

The competition for bragging rights became a spectator sport Sunday, as crowds with binoculars and telescopes gathered in the meadow, among the trees and along the road below the giant cliff. Climbers on El Capitan look like slow-moving ants in a sea of granite, and movement is usually hard to detect. Hirayama, one of the world’s best free climbers, always leads while Florine, the consummate strategist, belays and simultaneously climbs behind him, an extremely difficult and usually dangerous maneuver. In this scenario, a fall by Florine could be disastrous, as it would pull Hirayama off the wall. It is the ultimate team sport, in which the participants’ lives literally depend on each another.

“We are quite good working together,” Hirayama said. “I really need Hans. If he wasn’t there, I wouldn’t go.”

The crowd in the valley whooped and hollered after the duo completed the hardest sections of the 32 pitches, or rope lengths, including a maneuver known as the “King Swing,” in which climbers propel themselves 80 to 90 feet in the air more than a thousand feet off the ground. As they neared the top, it became clear to those gathered in the valley, including Florine’s wife, Jacqueline, and two children, Marianna, 7, and Pierce, 5, that it was going to be close. Climbers watching below were biting their nails, pacing about, yelling “go, go” as the two men reached the dreaded, difficult patch of granite known as the Glowering Spot.

“He’s at the belay,” one man yelled as Florine finished climbing a tiny crack in the wall. “It took eight minutes to do that pitch. I think they can do it.”

One could see them stepping it up, struggling to go faster near the top, but it was not to be. It was already too late by the time Florine made his scramble to the tree.

“I had a lot of little rope catches today,” Florine said later after he had hiked down to the valley to be with his family. “But a personal best is always a good thing. The yells from the crowd were fantastic.”

Speed competitions like this one are controversial in the insular world of rock climbing. Purists have criticized Florine’s competitiveness, forgetting that record setting has been almost an obsession, especially on the Nose of El Capitan ever since it was first climbed by Warren Harding, Wayne Merry and George Whitmore half a century ago.

The Hubers’ quest for the speed record inspired a movie, “To the Limit,” which depicts the brothers as transcendent climbers. Their competitiveness – which has driven them to subject themselves to ever more extreme dangers – is presented as a kind of spiritual journey toward a higher plane.

Realists simply call it reckless. After all, 13 climbers have been killed in nine separate accidents on the Nose since 1973 when Michael Blake, 19, of Santa Monica lost his grip on the rock and plummeted 2,800 feet to the ground after a bolt, a tie off and his rope failed. That’s just on the one route. Twenty-four people have died on El Capitan – elevation 7,569 feet – since 1905.

But the record for the fastest time is there, so Florine and Hirayama intend to grab it.’

Sure sounds kind of scary to me but good luck for Wednesday guys, I hope all goes well and you come back safely. I’ve included this excellent YouTube video from firstrunfeaturesnyc of the Huber brothers on El Capitan. This story has now been made into a major feature film by Pepe Danquart, called ‘To the Limit’ – it opened in NYC on June 6th.


Drive for permanent museum to rock climbing at Yosemite

June 23, 2008
I want to thank Marek Warszawski of the Fresno Bee for bringing this story of Ken Yager’s efforts to establish a permanent museum to rock climbing in the Yosemite National Park where so much history and development of the sport began.

Yager is the driving force behind a nonprofit organization pushing to build a permanent museum celebrating Yosemite Valley’s integral role in the sport’s development.

Climbing may have been born in the French Alps, but Yosemite is where it came of age. To ascend the Valley’s sheer granite walls, some of which rise more than 3,000 feet, tenacious young American climbers in the 1950s and ’60s developed tools and techniques that were later exported to mountain ranges throughout the world.

And they did it with an environmental sensibility passed down from John Muir — whose 1869 un-roped ascent of Cathedral Peak, a weathered, sculpted horn above Tuolumne Meadows, kicked off Yosemite’s climbing era — to big-wall pioneer Royal Robbins, who often risked his own safety to avoid defacing the rock.

Until recently, however, no enduring record existed of this rich history. And park visitors who stood by the dozens in El Capitan Meadow craning their necks toward the sky and watching tiny dots inch their way upward had little or no appreciation for what they were seeing.

That’s when Yager entered the picture. An accomplished climber who has scaled El Capitan more than 50 times, Yager and buddy Mike Corbett in 1991 came up with the idea to start collecting climbing artifacts that otherwise would’ve been lost to the dustbin of history.

Yager’s collection now totals nearly 10,000 items, about 3,000 of which have been catalogued. The most important pieces, along with some owned by the National Park Service, are on display at the Yosemite Museum. The 1,800-square foot exhibit, titled “Granite Frontiers: A Century of Yosemite Climbing,” is open daily through Oct. 27.

In one display case lies a metal spike that Scottish carpenter George Anderson used to nail his way up Half Dome in 1875, just five years after California’s top geologist proclaimed the summit “never will be trodden by human foot.”

Another contains two large pitons built from the legs of a cast-iron stove and used to protect 2-inch-wide cracks during the 1958 first ascent of El Capitan’s Nose route. Known in climbing circles as the Stoveleg pitons, Yager called them “the most famous pitons in the world. I know of one other one, and I’ll probably get that one, too.”

There is a 1933 roster of the Sierra Club’s Rock Climbing Section, the group that introduced roped climbing to Yosemite. There is the postage-stamped piton called a RURP that somehow held Robbins’ weight during a fall on his 10-day solo climb of El Capitan’s Muir Wall in 1968. There are the climbing shoes worn by Lynn Hill in 1993 when she became the first person to free climb (when only hands, feet and other body parts are used for upward progress) the Nose.

The exhibit also includes video presentations, both historical and modern, and photographic displays. An interactive granite wall allows visitors to wedge wired nuts and camming devices into cracks of varying widths, just like a real climber.

Yager’s efforts are applauded by Yosemite’s climbing pioneers, some of whom believe the park service has long regarded their sport as little more than a nuisance. In 2003, Yager founded the nonprofit Yosemite Climbing Association with the goal of establishing a permanent museum in the Valley. Although early proposals “weren’t very well received” by the park service, Yager said that the initial resistance has started to thaw.

When park officials began drafting a master plan for the Valley, Yager urged climbers to write letters supporting a climbing museum in the final draft. He said more than 1,000 did. The campaign, along with efforts from climbing groups, helped convince the park service that a museum should be included in the park’s future. However, all Valley construction has been halted by ongoing litigation, and the future of the museum remains in limbo.

“The lawsuit kind of put everything on hold,” Yager said.

Yager won’t rest until that happens. The married father of three earns his living as a quality-control inspector for a general contractor and does not draw a salary from his work with the YCA, which also organizes an annual trash cleanup effort every September called the Yosemite Facelift.

“I just want to see the museum get done,” said Yager, who works the equivalent of two full-time jobs. “Then I can relax.”

Old climbing tools such as two hammers (back) and two carabiners with assorted pitons forged by John Salathé circa 1940 are on display at the climbing exhibit: “Granite Frontiers: A Century of Yosemite Climbing.”

Ken Yager shows how to wedge a camming device into an interactive granite wall.

Ken Yager shows how to wedge a camming device into an interactive granite wall.
We send out a big shout of encouragement to Ken and his supporters and trust that once the Yosemite litigation is out of the way the establishment of the permanent museum to rock climbing in the Yosemite National Park will become a reality.