“I f***ing hate The Stovelegs,” Brad panted as he clipped a sling to our anchor and dropped off the far side of Dolt Tower. “So brutal.” “They’re pretty fun if you clip gear,” Mike joked, to an abbreviated chuckle. Four minutes later Brad was almost two pitches up climbing 5.9 fists faster than I’ve ever seen someone crack climb. He was clearly in the zone, and he still hadn’t placed any gear since clipping our anchor 150 feet earlier.
This took place around 7:30am on October 21, 2017. The night before, when Mike and I were bivvying on Dolt Tower after our first of three days on The Nose, we talked to our friend Jake on the phone. “They’re going for it tomorrow,” he told us, referring to Brad Gobright and Jim Reynolds’ attempt to set a new speed record up El Capitan’s most iconic route. We didn’t know Jim and Brad personally, but since we arrived in Yosemite three weeks earlier we had been hearing about their efforts from mutual friends. “They’ll probably pass you tomorrow morning before you start climbing,” Jake said encouragingly.
We knew they were coming before we saw them. As the sun slowly slid down from the rim of El Cap, we started hearing yells from the valley floor where the YOSAR crew and other friends and fans were gathered to watch. Sure enough, looking down the route we saw Brad cruising up The Stovelegs at an astonish pace. Ten minutes after Brad passed our bivvy on Dolt Tower, Jim flew by simul-climbing on the other end of a full-length rope.
I figured it would be impressive to watch the duo speed climbing, but I didn’t know exactly why. Reflecting on it later, I mostly felt inspired by the shear physicality of the whole thing. They weren’t just (essentially) free soloing thousands of feet of pretty challenging crack climbing, they were doing it fast. Both were breathing hard and sweating when they passed us, while we stood there with wool and down layers on waiting for the sun to warm our fingers. I saw no hesitation in their climbing, just a bold, practiced confidence supporting smooth, physical climbing. Even though I could tell they were suffering the way most of us do after a minute of hard sprinting, the freedom in their climbing style made it clear who was having more fun. We were trudging up El Cap while they were floating.
An hour and a half later, after re-packing our haul bag, racking up and letting a Nose-In-A-Day party pass us, Mike and I finally started climbing. I couldn’t help but notice that I put Mike on belay around 9:20am and we had woken up around 7:00. In the time it took us to wake up, make coffee, organize gear, take a poop and tie back in, Brad and Jim had climbed the entire Nose on El Capitan. Nice work, boys.