On Saturday, Brad Gobright and Jim Reynolds broke the speed record on The Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park—set by Alex Honnold and Hans Florine in June 2012—by four minutes. 29-year-old Gobright, from Orange County, California, led the pair up the first 14 pitches of the 2,900-foot wall. It was the professional rock climber’s 11th ascent of the grade VI wall this year. 24-year-old Reynolds, a member of Yosemite Search and Rescue from Trinity County, California, led the latter half of the climb.
Gobright and Reynolds have climbed this route together many times before; they’ve been trying to set the speed record for a year. They’ve been slowed down in the past by traffic on the wall and a variety of other factors, but on Saturday they moved with grace and efficiency despite heavier climber traffic than usual and wildfire smoke-laden air. They climbed light, with the minimum necessary climbing gear and no food or water, and simul-climbed where they could to save time.
About halfway up the wall, they were two minutes ahead of their personal record. A pitch above camp five, they realized they were on track to beat the standing record, and sent the rest of the wall with fresh energy and excitement, climbing the last 20 feet—rated 5.6—unclipped.
“That was the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done,” Gobright told Climbing magazine as he and Reynolds discussed the risks inherent to speed climbing. For context, Gobright has multiple free-solos under his belt, including 5.11 and 5.12 routes in Colorado’s Eldorado Canyon and Yosemite. Big wall climbing is, of course, as much about safety and skill as it is about athleticism. Speed climbing a route like the Nose asks climbers to move rapidly through critical safety checks and gear placement, and the margin of error is, of course, slim to none.
Just over a week before their ascent, a friend of theirs, Quinn Brett, took a 100-foot fall on a speed ascent of the same route and sustained serious injuries. The climbing ranger from Rocky Mountain National Park had set out to do it in a day. Gobright and Reynolds had initially planned to do make their speed record bid the subsequent day, but postponed it after her fall.
Check out a timelapse of their route below.
Photo by Cord Rodefeld.
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