Hans Florine has climbed The Nose on El Cap damn near 100 times, and in 2012 set the speed record for climbing The Nose with partner Alex Honnold in 2:23:46, one of several times Hans has held the record. He is quite unlike most of us in many ways.
But Hans is quite like most of us in a lot of ways: He has a family, kids, and a career to juggle, and he does not live in Yosemite National Park (although you might think so, just judging by his climbing resume). Hans goes to the climbing gym.
I get emails from Hans from time to time as part of my work with Outdoor Research (one of his sponsors), and a few weeks ago, I got an e-mail beginning with “I have some serious ways to speed pedestrian things up.” And then he went on to talk about how he met a friend (who is also a parent) for a two-hour climbing gym session, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., and both of them had obligations at 11 a.m.
So they got after it, each doing at least two to four routes every time they tied in, not standing at the base of the wall talking, and not worrying so much about the ratings of the routes so much as the mileage they could pack into two hours. In two hours, each of them climbed 27 routes. And then went about the rest of their day. Hans went on to say, “I’m big into measuring how long things take to do. If you can measure something, you can monitor, manage, motivate and manifest a change. I measure how many routes I can do in two hours, at the gym, at the crag, wherever.”
No kidding. When Hans goes to the gym, he GOES TO THE GYM.
Since reading his e-mail (which we turned into a post on Outdoor Research’s blog), I have analyzed a few things I do and their efficiency or inefficiency—especially at the climbing gym. If I lower my partner off a route I’m going to do next, I don’t take the rope out of the GriGri; I just reach over and clip it to their harness. I don’t take my shoes off in between routes unless my feet are really killing me. If I’m not mega-pumped after finishing a route, I’ll scan the wall for an easier route adjacent to it and then take a lap on it (I figure two 40-foot routes is about three-quarters of a real pitch, right?).
Obviously total mileage isn’t the point of every single trip to the climbing gym, but we could all probably be more efficient, both there and in the rest of our lives. I try to not say “I don’t have time for _____,” preferring instead to say, “I don’t make time for _____.” Which is good, but doesn’t say anything about the time you do have—and how efficiently you use it. Does having 10 browser windows open really make me more productive? Would I get this done more quickly if I stopped checking Twitter/Instagram/my e-mail on my phone every four minutes? Would traffic be a little better if the person (ahem) at the front of the line at every stoplight was paying attention when the light turned green?
I don’t dream of ever climbing El Cap in less than three hours (maybe less than three days?)—but Hans’s approach to the climbing gym is inspiring. On the days I do focus on climbing as many routes as possible, I’ve still only been able to squeeze in 21 in a little more than three hours. Which is quite a ways from Hans’s 27 routes in two hours, but hey, it’s not bad for someone who’s climbed The Nose 97 fewer times than Hans (0). Now, onto those other incredibly inefficient things in my life …