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The Big Linkup
Up Half Dome Then El Cap, Back-to-Back

Hans Florine
Hans Florine
The "Big Linkup" of the regular Northwest Face Route on Half Dome and the Nose of El Capitan in less than 24 hours is one of the great challenges of Yosemite climbing. The legendary Yosemite hardmen John Bachar and Peter Croft first completed the linkup in 1986, doing the Nose in 9.5 hours and the Regular Route in 4.5. The second sub-24 ascent of the linkup lingered until 1996, when Peter Coward and Joe Terravechia pulled it off. Hans Florine and Nancy Feagin completed the first male/female ascent in 1998. In 1999, the most challenging form of the linkup, an under 24-hour solo ascent, was achieved by two individuals. In a 24-hour period from July 26 to July 27, Dean Potter (who previously soloed Half Dome in 4 hours and 17 minutes in 1998), climbed El Capitan and then Half Dome. Just a few days later, an unknowing Hans Florine repeated the feat in reverse, first climbing Half Dome and then El Capitan. The following is his blow-by-blow account of his feat.

First, Half Dome
[Just the Facts]

I hike up to Half Dome from the Stables parking lot on a beautiful, full-moon morning with my South African friend, Alard Hufner. I bring enough water for the route, but only for rationing. The spring at the base has water, so I drink a good fill before starting the climb.

I solo the first pitch, then rope-solo a full 60-meter length using the Wren Silent Partner (solo belay device), then rope-solo the bolt ladder and 5.9 hand crack. Next, I solo to the bolt ladder at the Robbins traverse, rappel off the lower out [aid section], and rope-solo to the base of the chimneys. I rope-solo 60 meters into the chimneys, then solo to Big Sandy. I rope-solo to the right side of Thank God Ledge, then solo off, "roping in" twice by placing two leaver-biners until I was on the 5.5 section to the summit blocks. I pure solo from there to the summit of Half Dome.

"Then I keep my head straight and deal with my own situation, which is to nail 3000 more feet of granite before I can join Dean's ranks within the 24-hour mark..."

My descent on the cables takes about three minutes. DARN! I kept looking at my watch at the top of the cables, but forget to check the exact time when I reach the bottom. This time, I look at my watch about a minute or so after I reach the base of the cables. On the route, I ate one PowerBar Harvest bar, one PowerBar gel, and drank 1.5 liters of water.

Then, on to El Capitan
Hans Florine
Kokopelli, Day 1
modem speed
(56) (T1) (300k)

modem speed
(56) (T1) (300k)

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Video: Alard Hufner
I make it back to the base of Half Dome in 25 minutes, shove stuff in the backpack and head back down toward El Capitan. On the way, I eat a banana, apricots, and a PowerBar ProteinPlus. I stop in at the lodge store for a B&J Totally Nuts ice cream bar. I see Steve Schneider in El Capitan Meadow where I am informed that Dean Potter has already done the "Big Linkup" a day earlier. Doaohh! The first thing that slips out of my mouth is, "Rad and Awesome! I guess the word got to him that I was going to go for it." Then I keep my head straight and deal with my own situation, which is to nail 3000 more feet of granite before I can join Dean's ranks within the 24-hour mark.

I figure I'll be okay, as I've still got 15 hours to go before my "24-hour C to C" (car-to-car) time is up. I have nearly 17.5 hours to go, since I started at the base of Half Dome, before my "24-hour, bottom-to-top time" (bottom of Half Dome to the top of El Cap) is up. I had soloed the Nose once before with a Gri Gri belay device in 14:11, but now I have the Wren Silent Partner, the 70-meter rope and better beta. I stuff my face with peanuts, molasses cookies, and assorted other grub in the Meadow.

From the base of El Cap, I rope-solo in two pitches to Sickle. I solo to the top of Sickle and rap to Dolt Hole Cracks. I anchor there and rope-solo into the Stove Legs for 60 meters. I rope-solo again, about 40 meters and then I just solo from there to the top of Texas Flake, leap-frogging a #3 and #4 Camalot. I rope-solo to the top of Boot Flake, then rap to bottom of it, fix the rope, and clean the bottom to Texas Flake. Then I jug back up and swing the King Swing on rap — thus eliminating going to the top of Boot Flake again. I pull the rope right after completing the swing and anchor the rope. I rope-solo from here to the top of the route, never being off belay again, AHHH!

Hans Florine
Nearing the Top
From the base of the Great Roof, I rope-solo to Triangle Ledge after Pancake Flake. From there to Camp 5, from there to the Glowering Spot, then to Camp 6, then to above the 5.13b pitch, then to the final belay just outside the alcove, then to the top!

My friends Alard and Abby are on top to film me. I am smashed. On the route I consumed three liters of water, three PowerBars, two PowerBar PowerGels, one packet of Uptime, and some nuts. Steve Schneider and Heather Baer had given me hooting support almost the whole route, as they were doing a one day ascent behind me.

"I still have not been able to talk to Dean in person, but the tale I get is that he flew out just for a few days to do the linkup the day before me..."

On the top, with only one hour left to make it to the car for the "24-hour, car-to-car time", I opted to lay down instead and have a safer and nicer walk out in the morning. (See "Just the Facts.")

I received no assistance from the cameraman, Alard, or others from the time I left the truck at 3:24am until I topped out on El Cap. Other than a shared sleeping bag on top, a can of corn, and a bagel, I received nothing else on top except friendly moral support, which I was very grateful to have! I carried all my own gear down from the top as well.

What I know about Dean's ascent
After getting knee surgery in May '99 and dealing with the X Games in late June, I started doing long routes in the Valley to get ready. In my regular bolstering style, I "announced" to many of my climbing friends — and thus the whole of the big wall climbing community — that I would make an attempt of the linkup on the full moon, July 28th. I still have not been able to talk to Dean in person, but the tale I get is that he flew out just for a few days to do the linkup the day before me.

He started at about 5pm on the Nose, Monday the 26th. He took a single-8mm rope, about 30 leaver-biners, I think a sparse rack, and NO ascenders! (I think he had Ropemans, though.) He cut his rope at Pancake Flake, discarded it at the alcove, and soloed piece-to-piece but unroped from there. Wow! He only took a 100-foot section of rope for Half Dome, plus, I assume, some leaver-biners and a sparse rack. He topped out on Half Dome about 23 hours and change after starting the Nose. He was met on top by Jose Pereya, and slogged down the trail via the gap between Liberty Cap, etc. I assume his car-to-car time was about 28 hours.

Dean did the El Capitan/Half Dome linkup in the same order as all the previous teams. I wanted to get the horrendously long, arduous hike approach to Half Dome done first, while I think all the other parties wanted to dispense with the bigger wall first — El Capitan being 3000-feet high and Half Dome only 2000 feet. And thus, one of the biggest solo linkups in Yosemite history happened twice within three days.

Hans Florine, Correspondent

[Just the Facts]

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