Help grow the archive! drop a knowledge bomb here.

The Nose

The Nose of El Capitan is perhaps the most decorated and sought-after rock climb in the world. It ascends the most prominent line of the most esteemed wall in the most iconic climbing destination in existence. It was first climbed in 1958, and free-climbed in 1993. It has since seen countless ascents, although few of them free.


Big Wall


United States




3,000 feet

First Ascent

Warren Harding, Wayne Merry, George Whitmore. FFA: Lynn Hill

Date of FA


The Nose

Ascent Log

ClimberType of ClimbDateTimeNotes
Warren Harding, Wayne Merry, Rich Calderwood, George WhitmoreAid Climbing12th Nov 195845 daysThe first ever ascent of The Nose Video
Royal Robbins, Joe Fitschen, Chuck Pratt, and Tom FrostAid Climbing19606 daysRecords Archive
Lynn HillFree ClimbSep 19934 daysFirst free ascent and first female ascent of The Nose
Lynn HillFree ClimbSep 199423 hoursFirst ascent done in just 24 hours Video
Scott BurkeAid & Free Climbing199812 daysHe lead most of the route apart from the Great Roof which he top roped.
Beth Rodden, Tommy CaldwellFree Climb14th Oct 20054 daysBeth and Tommy led half the climb each.
Tommy CaldwellFree Climb15th Oct 2005under 12 hoursAfter his ascent with Beth, Tommy came back two days later to free climb The Nose in less than 12 hours.
Tommy CaldwellFree Climb2005under 12 hoursHe came back after two weeks and made another ascend of The Nose and Freerider in 23 hours and 23 minutes.
Jorg VerhoevenFree Climb20143 daysVideo
Keita KurakamiRope Solo20185 daysFirst all free rope solo
Connor HersonFree Climb20183 daysConnor is the youngest person to free The Nose. Climbing Magazine
Sébastien BertheFree Climb20198 daysFirst person to climb The Nose from the ground up. Video
Babsi Zangerl, Jacopo LarcherFree Climb20196 daysGripped Magazine
Alex Waterhouse, Billy RidalFree Climb20237 DaysInstagram Post

Climb Profile

The Route

The Nose is 3,000 feet tall, broken into 31 pitches to reach the summit of El Capitan. The majority of climbers on The Nose ascend it in a “free as can be” style, free-climbing the easy/moderate pitches and aiding through the more difficult sections. In this style of climbing the route clocks in at 5.9/C2. When climbed in a fully free style, the grade jumps to 5.14. This jump in grade is owed to two pitches – Changing Corners and The Great Roof. 

the nose route topo
The Nose Topo

The Nose starts on a slab. As you ascend the massive wall, however, it gradually changes angle, getting steeper the higher you get. This provides an incredible amount of exposure on the upper half. Looking down at the swoop of El Cap’s prow, the 80-200 foot ponderosa pines that color the valley floor take the appearance of tiny green bushes and the park’s developments become minuscule dollhouses.  

In order to climb the nose, the climber must be extremely well-rounded, with proficiency in slab technique, face climbing, jamming, aid climbing, and big wall systems like hauling and pendulums. Because of this, it is often viewed as the pinnacle and culmination of many climbers’ careers.

First Ascent

Warren Harding, Wayne Merry, Rich Calderwood & George Whitmore

The Nose was first climbed on the 12th November 1958 by an epic team consisting of Warren Harding, Wayne Merry, Rich Calderwood and George Whitmore. This was an unprecedented ascent for the time as nothing previously climbed came close to The Nose’s scale and difficulty. 

Warren Harding on the nose
Warren Harding on the Nose

It took the team over 45 wall days spanned over 18 months, all without the assistance of modern equipment. Many of the cracks were too large for the gear they had access to. Bill ​​Feuerer surmounted this setback by building makeshift pitons from the leg of an old cast iron stove, hence the name of the classic “Stovelegs” pitch.  Without jumars or hauling equipment, the dedicated team had to ascend the thousands of feet of fixed ropes using simple friction hitches while carrying massive loads of equipment on their harnesses. 

Reflecting on the experience Warren Harding is famously quoted as saying the following:

“As I hammered in the last bolt and staggered over the rim, it was not at all clear to me who was the conqueror and who was the conquered. I do recall that El Cap seemed to be in much better condition than I was.”

The team’s ascent will forever be remembered as one of the most monumental and groundbreaking acts in climbing history and paved the way for the hundreds of ascents that succeeded it.

First Free Ascent

Lynn Hill

In 1993 Lynn Hill made history by making the first free ascent of The Nose over the course of four days, and in an unprecedented feat, she climbed the route without any assistance of aid techniques. This accomplishment stunned the world– not only was freeing The Nose thought to be impossible, but the fact that it was done by a woman bruised the egos of macho male climbers across the world. As she topped out, the famously said, ‘It Goes Boys!’.

Lynn Hill first free ascent of The Nose, Yosemite
Lynn on the first free ascent of The Nose, El Cap ©Heinz Zak

Many tried to diminish Hill’s accomplishment by making excuses about her hand size and height, giving her an unfair advantage. In reality, Hill was simply one of the most talented, competent climbers of her time and possessed the ability to believe in the impossible and bring the dream of free climbing The Nose to fruition. 

Even this wasn’t enough for Hill, however, as she came back the following year and stunned the world once again by freeing the route in a single day. Since Lynn Hill’s first free ascent, subsequent sends have occurred but have been sparse and scattered over the past couple of decades.

The Nose Speed Records

From Warren Harding, Wayne Merry, and George Whitmore’s original 45-day ascent, speed and efficiency on the route have come a long way. In fact, speed climbing The Nose has become a discipline of its own. Hans Florine sticks out in this domain as he has climbed The Nose over a hundred times and broken the speed record on eight occasions.

Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold on The Nose Speed Record
Tommy and Alex breaking The Nose Speed record © REEL ROCK / Austin Siadak

When climbers speed climb on The Nose, they use an anything-goes style, mixing free and aid climbing techniques – basically whatever will get them up the wall as fast as possible. In 1975 Jim Bridwell, John Long and Billy Westbay made the first speed record, climbing the wall in 16 hours.

This original single-day ascent sparked years of competition, rivalries and relentless efforts to climb the route in jaw-dropping speeds. Over the following decades the speed record worked its way from 15 hours down. The current record is held by Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell who climbed the route in a remarkable 01:58:07 in 2018.

To find the full timeline of The Nose Speed Record, take a look here.


The Nose is a route that is rich with history, drama, and triumphs. Each year new climbers flock to the valley to test themselves on the iconic route. Some fail, some succeed, but all leave with an unrivaled experience. With almost seven decades of ascents, The Nose is probably the most quintessential rock climb in North America, if not the world– and it still has stories yet to be told.

Video Library


Born and bred in Atlanta, Georgia, Landon cut his teeth on the rocks around Chattanooga and the Red River Gorge. These days, you'll find him splitting his time between guiding fellow adventurers in Moab, Utah, and living out his nomadic dreams on the open road.

Super Crackinette
Moonlight Buttress

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top