Climbers Reclaim World Record On El Capitan

El Capitan i i

El Capitan is the largest monolith of granite in the world and a favorite of rock climbers. John McChesney/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption John McChesney/NPR
El Capitan

El Capitan is the largest monolith of granite in the world and a favorite of rock climbers.

John McChesney/NPR
The Nose of El Capitan i i

The American-Japanese climbing duo of Hans Florine and Yuji Hirayama climbed the nose of El Capitan on Wednesday, with Hirayama leading. John McChesney/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption John McChesney/NPR
The Nose of El Capitan

The American-Japanese climbing duo of Hans Florine and Yuji Hirayama climbed the nose of El Capitan on Wednesday, with Hirayama leading.

John McChesney/NPR

Two men hauled themselves up to the nose of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in 2 hours and 43 minutes Wednesday, setting a world record for the granite giant in California that is an icon of world rock climbing.

Hans Florine, 44, and his climbing partner, Yuji Hirayama, 39, beat the record by a nail-biting two minutes.

People once thought it was impossible to scale the sheer cliff face, which rises more than 3,000 feet. Fifty years ago, Warren Harding set out to climb El Capitan. It took him 47 days of repeated assaults, but he finally made it.

Florine has now climbed El Capitan 68 times. He and Hirayama owned the record at 2 hours and 48 minutes, which they set in 2002.

Then two German brothers, Thomas and Alexander Huber, showed up and broke it in October. Their time: 2 hours and 45 minutes.

That prompted Florine and Hirayama to set about reclaiming their rightful place at the top, as it were.

On June 27, they climbed what's called the nose route — straight up the middle — but missed their goal by 43 minutes.

"I think we could have gone faster," Florine told the San Francisco Chronicle at the time. "I haven't been getting as much rest as I would have liked. I think I need to come up early next time and get more sleep."

They set out again on Sunday and missed by 2 1/2 minutes. Still, the American-Japanese climbing duo decided to try it again. If their latest attempt hadn't succeeded, the men said, they would have returned in September for another go at reclaiming the record.

Compiled from NPR and San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Correction July 3, 2008

Earlier, the Web text for this story incorrectly stated that it was former U.S. president Warren Harding (Nov. 2, 1865-Aug. 2, 1923) who first climbed El Capitan. In fact, it was Yosemite climbing legend Warren Harding, who died in 2002.

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