The Nose Job 3: What It's Going to Take

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The last time I thought seriously about trying the Nose in a day (NIAD) was about five years ago, and though nothing came of it that year, I did some preliminary research, wondering if I was in good enough shape for the route. At the time, Hans Florine and Bill Wright were offering to calculate how fast you could climb the Nose, based on variables such as fitness and Yosemite experience. Hans and Yuji Hirayama own the record for speed-climbing the Nose (2 hours 37 minutes!), and Hans has done the NIAD something like 50 times. He and Wright literally wrote the book on speed climbing. They ought to know.

So I sent them a bunch of information, based on my fitness and experience at the time:

  • Pitches climbed in Yosemite: circa 200

  • Pitches led in Yosemite: 100

  • Climbed Nose before: No

  • Pull-ups: 10

  • Time to run one mile: 7:00

  • Trad lead: 5.11

  • Jugging experience/ability: Level 5 (middle of the road)

  • Partner: Same ability, will split leads

And so forth. Hans crunched the numbers and came back with a figure: 18.2 hours. He added, "I'd say you'd drop a cool four hours off your time if you read our book with reverence and a highlighter, and another five hours off the time if you got and used my multi-media product." (The latter is Hans' in-depth guide to the Nose, for multi-day parties and speed climbers alike.) I'll definitely be studying both the book and the Nose guide. Count on it. But I doubt any form of book learning is going to cut my NIAD time in half.

I'd like to do the Nose mostly in daylight, which would mean something like 4:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. in late spring or early summer, or about 17 hours on the route. Unfortunately, I have no more Yosemite experience now than I did in 2006. As for Hans and Bill's other parameters, my performance has declined. Pull-ups? About eight, and the last two are a bit suspect. Time for the mile? No idea, but I haven't run more than three or four miles at a time in nearly five years, so I'm betting my one-mile time is a lot slower than 7 flat. Trad lead? I can squeak up the odd 5.11, but no one would call me a solid 5.11 climber these days unless I'm clipping bolts.

Last week, I contacted Hans again and asked him for an update on the calculation. His answer was encouraging—and it clearly pointed to the foundation of this winter's training. He wrote, "Looking over the answers you [gave me earlier] and not using a calculator but just giving it a feeling response, I think I was too conservative on my guess previously. One thing that stuck out on your answers was that you have or do lead 5.11 trad. If you can lead 5.11 Yosemite trad, then I'd say your NIAD time with a similar partner would be 12 hours."

So there you have it. I'll be employing all sorts of training and practice for the NIAD, but the bottom-line goal is to return to 5.11 trad fitness. I won't have time for a visit to Yosemite before my NIAD attempt, but there are plenty of opportunities to train on granite cracks closer to home. And here's the thing that makes me the most psyched: If I can get into 5.11 trad shape, there are still quite a few routes near home that I've never done before (and even more that need cleaning up). Now that's some motivation!

Climbing editor Dougald MacDonald is training for an attempt on the Nose in a day next summer. Read all the Nose Job blog posts here.