44 years, Australia
Alex Honnold confirmed with Alpinist earlier today that he and Tommy Caldwell set a new speed record on the Nose of El Capitan on May 30, climbing the approximately 3,000-foot route in 2 hours, 10 minutes, 15 seconds.
"Hiking down.... Psyched," he texted. The previous record of 2:19:44 was set last October by Brad Gobright and Jim Reynolds, who bested a record of 2:23:46 set by Honnold and Hans Florine that had held since June 2012.
In a phone interview that followed shortly after the ascent, Honnold said he and Caldwell are hoping eventually to break two hours.
"We've only climbed the route eight times together, and we haven't plateaued yet, so it makes sense to do a few more burns," he said. "We're going to rest a couple days, and Tommy is going to spend time with his family, but hopefully we'll be able to try again soon."
Gobright and a host of others observed the record dash up the Captain from the meadow below.
"Jim and I both are psyched they took the record. 2:10 is mind-blowing," Gobright said. "I was watching from the meadow for the whole climb. I was blown away by how little aid climbing they did. They climbed very smooth and consistent but I think they could have gotten certain sections a little more wired. Regardless, it was clear from the start that they would get the record today. Well rested, good temps and not many people on the climb."
Honnold said that Caldwell placed gear while leading to the top of the Boot Flake. "That's partly why we slowed down there. We're still figuring it out," he said.
On speed ascents of the Nose, it is common for the leader to back clean or eschew protection along the 5.10 hand crack to the top of the Boot Flake so that the follower can immediately initiate the long leftward pendulum known as the King Swing, instead of having to clean the gear and then lower down to begin the swing. Last year, Quinn Brett fell 100 feet onto the ledge below when she slipped while leading the Boot Flake on a speed ascent; she survived but is now a paraplegic.
Honnold said that he does "more of a tension traverse" instead of a swing, which allows him to move left higher up into the next crack.
The top half of the route, which Honnold led, has been a little "mungy," which made that section the scariest part for him.
"The top [lead] block has been kind of wet and we had to be very conservative there," he said. "It just got dry and warm, so it's about the best it's been all year. Hopefully it will continue to get better."
When asked if he noticed any differences (besides time) between the first Nose speed record he set with Florine in 2012 and this new record with Caldwell, Honnold pointed to the gear.
"The gear has gotten lighter," he said. "But the strategy is the same, with a couple of refinements.... It's all about saving 30 seconds here, 30 seconds there."
He didn't bring jumars for ascending the rope, but he pointed out that the top half, which he led, is the section that "makes more sense [for the follower] to jug," which Caldwell did.
Reel Rock Film Tour is documenting the story for a future film.
Honnold famously became the first person to free solo El Cap via Freerider (VI 5.12d/13a, 3,000') last year. A documentary about that ascent titled "Free Solo" is expected to be released this autumn.
Photo credit: REEL ROCK Film Tour, Sam Crossley