On Father's Day, when most dads were lounging in a La-Z-Boy or working the buffet at their favorite restaurant, Hans Florine was reclaiming a world record.
The Lafayette resident, whose first speed climb was performed nearly 25 years ago on a 20-foot boulder in a cow field, required only 2 hours, 23 minutes and 46 seconds to scurry up the vertical face of The Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite.
Blazing past the 2:36.45 record set in 2010 by Sean Leary and Dean Potter -- who had eclipsed Florine's 2008 time of 2:37.05 -- Florine and his climbing partner Alex Honnold, a Sacramento native, shaved nearly 13 minutes off the world's best time.
And just 24 hours after he stood atop his favorite wall with his 26-year old partner, Florine rounded the bend from age 47 to 48.
"I turned 48 today and I wanted to do it on my birthday, but a lot of people wouldn't have been able to watch, so we chose Sunday," Florine says, in a phone interview Monday, June 18. "Plus, it was a weekend and early enough in the season so it wouldn't be too hot for the people watching."
This is typical Florine behavior -- suspended hundreds of feet above horizontal ground and relying only on a few pieces of metal, some rope and the astonishing strength of his wiry, honed-to-the-bone anatomy, he's concerned about the comfort of onlookers.
"It was perfect," he exclaims. "I got to swim with my kids and have a picnic in a meadow afterwards."
Struggling to come
During the climb, and in practice sessions on Wednesday and Thursday of the previous week, the two men kept close tabs on their "negative splits," the discipline of posting better times later than earlier.
"We went a little cautious for the first four of the 32 pitches (segments of the climb)," Florine explains. "At half way, we were nine minutes faster than our time on Thursday. I knew that we could comfortably coast in and beat the record."
Their biggest advantages, he says, came from polishing their approach to the route and on an improbable factor -- rest.
"We took 2 1/2 days of rest, and that rest helps a 48-year old," he says, "Alex was chomping at the bit, but he knew I needed it."
Honnold, whose solo free climbs to the top of various surfaces have earned him a recent interview on "60 Minutes" and an article in The New York Times, has sometimes been called "crazy."
"It's really hard not to call him crazy, but I've realized he's just at a higher level of understanding his limits," Florine says. "There have been other climbers as talented, but not ones who trusted themselves. He's broken a new mental barrier and I'm achieved enough to know that he's not crazy."
This is as close to a self-congratulatory statement as Florine comes, and the next minute he's calling Honnold "the Tiger Woods of climbing" and "the young kid pushing the limits."
One might even jump to the conclusion that Florine was swept up the craggy incline on his partner's coattails -- a false presumption, one made plain by the one hour and 12 minutes each of them was in the lead.
"We were so emboldened. We each led for the same amount of time. The fitness and the mental knowledge of the route were everything," he claims.
Florine has climbed El Capitan 147 times, and the Nose route 77 times. He and Honnold made a last-minute decision to climb without restocking, a radical move that sheered at least two minutes off their final time.
"On Thursday we added a bit more gear, maybe a pound of weight, and instead of packing my gear smallest to largest, like most climbers do, I did it in order of need. I knew the route so well I could say which piece came in what order."
Florine says that Honnold is usually "cool as a cucumber" but was "pretty darn excited" at the top.
Waiting at the bottom of the Nose, his kids, 9-year-old Pierce and Marianna, 11, doused him with squirt guns because they lacked the "fizzy (champagne) bottles" his son desired.
From his wife, he received a long hug and the whispered words "You're a superstar."
After setting the new world record for a sprint up the Nose, what does a 48-year-old speed climber say about the future?
"I'm not going to do a faster time. If someone else breaks my record, I'm OK with letting them keep it. I'm done with The Nose. I told my mom and my wife that, before they could tell me. In some ways, it's like retiring. But I'm only retiring from that particular record -- there'll be others to go after."