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'On the Nose' recounts airy adventures

On his first attempt to climb The Nose of El Capitan, Hans Florine and his partner survived a near-death experience and retreated. But they succeeded on their second push, and Florine later skyrocketed to unprecedented longevity and speed on the iconic Yosemite climb.

Anyone who’s struggled with a challenge, climbing-related or otherwise, will find inspiration in “On The Nose,” the new book by Florine and co-author Jayme Moye, recounting his climbing career that includes more than 100 ascents of the 2,900-foot classic.

The fascinating read describes Florine’s climbing journey as he evolves from a big wall rookie to a globe-trotting world champion and eventually to a record-setting Yosemite speed climber.

Early in the progression, Florine decides to give up a promising business career in favor of a “dirtbag” climbing lifestyle. That fateful decision set him on a path to not just climbing greatness but also mountain-sized happiness and personal fulfillment, he writes.

“Why on earth would anyone climb The Nose 100 times?” Florine ponders. “I’m not sure that’s the right question. How about this one: why on earth would anyone work a job they don’t care about, day after day, for 261 days a year, every year?”

Climbers will take interest in the ways Florine improved his initial Nose time of 46 hours with his college track teammate Mike Lopez in 1989 down to a mind-boggling 2 hours and 23 minutes with partner Alex Honnold in 2012. The impressive initial mark is still faster than most parties achieve, but the latter is speedier than most climbers can imagine. Stories and insights about Lynn Hill, Peter Croft and Steve Schneider will also entertain readers who are familiar with the well-known climbers.

Perhaps more engaging to non-climbing readers are the enchanting ways climbing The Nose has connected Florine with others like his wife Jacki and his teenage daughter Mari.

“For all of my adult life, I’ve been either directly or indirectly putting my energy into climbing that route, to the absolute best of my ability. It was a risky investment,” Florine writes. “But the return has been huge. In a way, I can tie everything and everyone I love most in life back to The Nose. And the dividends are still coming.”

Readers who have climbed El Capitan and those who have never tied into a rope will enjoy the collaboration by Florine and Moye, and the book may even lead those who have dreamed of climbing The Nose but never committed the time and effort required to reconsider their priorities.

— Matt Johanson authored “Yosemite Adventures,” a guidebook to 50 favorite hikes, climbs and winter treks, available at