Nose in a day (NIAD) beta

As espoused on many different forums, The Nose of El Capitan may be the greatest rock climb in the world. An increasingly common goal is to climb the Nose in a single day.

I started crawling the internet for all the Nose and NIAD beta I could find after my brother and I got the idea to try to do the NIAD onsight. Or more accurately, to do the NIAD without climbing the route or sections of it prior to our attempt (not really "onsight" if you look at a bunch of photos and read detailed beta I suppose).

There is great NIAD beta available from Hans Florine's website. He offers insight into the rack needed, timing estimates once on the Nose, and detailed pitch-by-pitch information that is very useful. The information is general enough to be used by NIAD teams or teams climbing the route in multiple days.

A post by John Middendorf on his website also has good NIAD information. However, it is tailored toward very strong teams (i.e. sub-12 hour ascent teams). As my brother and I do not really have the ability to "cruise mid 5.11 cracks quickly and efficiently", the timing estimates John gives for other routes seemed absurdly fast and not generalizable to a team of mid- to high-5.10 climbers.

Consequently, after we did the route (onsight in 21 hours 53 minutes, video TR) I thought I would post the additional information I would have found useful prior to the route for future teams with the same goal.


When we climbed the Nose we short fixed almost every pitch. We did not use aiders until Boot Flake, did a mix of free and aid up to the Great Roof, and then used aiders on every pitch after that. We tried to French free and free as much as possible on each pitch up high but it was difficult since we were very tired by then. Knowing how to short fix is an important skill to keep both team members moving as much as possible. It is especially important up higher, when the steepness of the wall and general fatigue makes the follower move more slowly.


When talking with people who had climbed the Nose wall-style and trying to compare it to other routes, I heard numerous times that "The Nose is WAAAAY harder than Half Dome".

To reiterate, the Nose is WAAAAAY harder than Half Dome.

In addition to having nine more pitches, and most of its free pitches being rated harder, the free climbing is much more physical and the aid is steeper on the Nose. As one example, an effort that matches the Stovelegs (pitches 7-11) would be to link the first two pitches of Reed's Direct three times in a row (each time finishing with the real exit, not the 5.8 escape left). This makes John Middendorf's wonderfully understated line that "One of the main tricks [for the NIAD] is to have the ability to go for it all day long" come into perspective. We trained a lot of cardio and climbed as many long routes in Yosemite as we could before getting on the Nose, but still felt a bit short on free climbing strength when we actually went for it.

Timing on other routes

Hans has a number of timing estimates on the Nose itself (Sickle Ledge is 1/10th of the way, El Cap Tower is 1/3, Camp 4 is 1/2), but not much information on comparable other routes in Yosemite. I spoke with Hans and he estimated that translations for Nose times might be as follows:
RNWF Half Dome time * 4/3 = Nose time
Astroman time * 3/2 = Nose time
Rostrum time * 2 = Nose time

Some route times we had prior to our ascent (all except Astroman done with 2nd jugging):
Astroman: 12:55 onsight (freed up to Harding Slot, aided afterwards)
SW Face Liberty Cap: 7:30 onsight (Trip Report)
RNWF Half Dome: 11:32 (18:05 car-to-car, had climbed it once before)
Southern Man: 8:17 onsight
South Face Washington Column: 6:02 (had climbed it before)

Translating our Astroman and RNWF times using Hans' predictions suggested we would climb the Nose in 15-19 hours. When we were on the route, we still hit the benchmarks like that too: at Sickle in 1:30 (15 hour prediction), at El Cap Tower in 5:05 (still 15 hours), at Camp 4 in 9:00 (18 hour prediction). But we ended up summitting in 21:53, because we had trouble "going for it all day long". None of the other routes listed above gets you nearly as thrashed as the Nose does, not even Half Dome car-to-car. I think the best route to train on is Astroman though. Most of the difficulty of the Nose is free climbing at a reasonably high standard for so many pitches. Consequently, climbing steep, harder free (and French freeing through tough moves) is great practice.


7 nuts (HB offset micros 3-5 and the BD 4-7)
2 ea cams from black alien to #2 camalot
1 ea #3 camalot
1 ea #3.5 camalot
1 ea #4 camalot
1 ea #2 link cam (It's heavy, but acts as a triple for sizes 0.75-2, and is very useful for "crack jumaring" Boot Flake and pitches 26-30!)
1 ea blue/green, green/yellow, yellow/red offset aliens
1 narrow Leeper cam hook
4 quickdraws
8 trad draws
8 shoulder slings
6 free biners
6 locking biners

This rack was perfect for us. On a few occasions we could climb two pitches without having to tag gear back up. You can pare down the rack further for the leader by noting that for pitches 1-6 nothing above #2 is needed. For pitches 7-14 you probably don't need anything smaller than a yellow alien, no offsets, and only singles from yellow alien to 0.75 camalot. We also didn't place any nuts before the Great Roof.

Other thoughts

Get the route (and yours and your partner's roles on each pitch) dialed in your head prior to starting up. The bottom half of the route has a bunch of logistical issues with pendulums and lowerouts, and you want all of that clear so you can just execute when you're up there.

Starting time is a tricky question. When we climbed we could see without headlamps by the second pitch. That was great for free climbing, but meant that we baked in the morning sun on the east side of El Cap, then as we crossed to the west side, baked in the afternoon sun. If I were to do it again I would shoot to be doing the King Swing just as natural morning light was sufficient to see. However, the pitch to get established in the Stovelegs would be tricky in the dark without having done it before.

Some final advice we got from Hans: The first 2 pitches are hard. Don't let them break your spirit. Keep going and enjoy the best rock climb in the world.