Grueling Day Sees Desk Jockey Devastated on Mountaineer’s 36th 

(Yosemite, CA) AP – Celebrated Speed Climber, mountaineer, and X-Game Champion Hans Florine celebrated his 36th birthday Sunday in fine style, while Birthday Challenge Coordinator and Food Challenge instigator Steve Edwards was pummeled in his support task.

In honor of the day, the pair climbed 36 pitches and ran 36 kilometers in Yosemite National Park. Florine, a Yosemite resident, is famous for his speed records on many of Yosemite’s big walls. His initial birthday event was to climb 36 pitches in celebration. When Edwards heard of this “challenge” he was appalled,

“The way he climbs, 36 pitches will take Hans about 3hours. He needs to up the ante a bit to get sanctioned.”

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Immediately, a 36 K run was added, eclipsing Edwards’ own 35th, which consisted of 35K and 35 pitches. Ever the competitor, Hans than suggested furthering this by adding 36oz of ice cream, 36oz of beer, and an unprecedented 3.6 King Pin apple fritters. The latter was impressive to all that had completed the Apple Fritter Challenge themselves. Said originator Todd Mei, “The original challenge of 2 and a jelly donut is grueling, and that’s without any exercise. I recall one day where an ex-roommate did the challenge while watching a basketball game and was too incapacitated afterwards to join in a game of stick ball. If Hans can do this, perhaps they (Germans) are really the master race after all.”

 Edwards, who has been frustratingly tied to a desk job all year, originally only signed on the running portion of the event, saying “I haven’t climbed 36 total pitches this year.” Florine encouraged him to join in some part of the climbing and he set off for Yosemite with that in mind. On his arrival, he quaffed down a beer to beat down the oppressive heat than soloed 6 pitches up Manure Pile Buttress to re-acquaint himself with Yosemite’s granite. Thinking he has 12 hours to rest, he enjoyed a couple of Busch Bavarian’s and a trademark American Spirit.

 This soon proved a mistake, for upon arrival at Florine’s he was greeted with a change in plans, hearing that they would leave at midnight, and that he was to participate in all of the climbing. “It’s your birthday” was his response”…I’m the support guy, so I’m in for whatever…”

 The Florine plan seemed to make sense: they would start the Royal Arches route at midnight to beat the heat, but mainly so that Hans could get a jump on the eating,

“I figure I’ll do a fritter and we’ll split a tub (of ice cream) before the route and it will be digested be the time we’re finished” stated Hans. Edwards’s main concern was footwear. He had only brought a pair of slippers, but due to the alternate plan, really needed a different shoe. He found a pair of a Five-Ten hiking shoes that fit, but it was a style he was unaccustomed. Knowing much of the climbing was to be un-roped gave him some concern, “I figure the Five-Ten rubber will stick to anything, but I’m concerned about blisters and foot slippage in the boot.”

 The shoes worked fine, but the pair had another problem: oppressive heat and humidity. “There was absolutely no breeze” said Edwards “I’m not usually a big sweater but I felt as though I was in a sauna…after two pitches, I was out of dry clothing to wipe away sweat.” After a couple hundred feet, Florine employed a plan to speed up. The pair was roped together, a la mountaineering (sans ice axes), between 40’ of rope. They had no gear, other than two biners, but Florine would lead and climb over trees when possibly to add protection. Because a fall by either person would most likely pull both off, Hans imposed a strict “no falling” rule. The rope was mainly in place so that he could tug on Edwards when he was moving too slowly. Florine had recently done the route, car to car, in just over one hour but Edwards hadn’t been on it since a birthday challenge in ’87 and said “I felt like Steve Komito being dragged along by Layton Kor over a cry of ‘this route’s gotta go’.”

 Said NBC’s Bob Costas, “Florine is 0 and 4 on speed challenges when he has to drag his partner within the first 500 feet, so this could be considered a bad sign.”

 The route and descent went without incident except a change of itinerary. The plan had them climbing the East Buttress of El Cap, a route they had both done before but neither really enjoyed. Whilst complaining about it they decided to climb the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral instead, a route that Edwards had never done. This also changes their running plans, something that would come to haunt them.

 After the RA, the pair finished the tub and Hans downed a fritter and they were off to Manure Pile for a quick 6 pitches. It was here that the legendary King Pin Fritter reared its ugly head. The pair was soloing with Edwards in the lead. After hearing NBC commentator Bill Walton bellowing,

“These guys are engaged in some VERY CASUAL climbing.”

He offered to pick up the pace and was surprised to hear Florine say,

“If I go any faster I’ll puke.”

 They pair were home before 4 am for a few hours of shuteye. During the half time show, commentator Dick Vitale was upbeat,

 “21 down and it’s only 4am! You gotta luv it, baby!! But if I was Coach A (team coach Jacki Adams) I would have some concern. Edwards can’t be used to these big Yosemite descents, and Florine—I dunno, baby—looked pretty green! I think he’s gonna puke! That’s right, baby, the Big P!! Prayin’ to the Porcelain God!! The Technicolor Yawn!! Yeah, baby, I luv it, that ‘s what the birthday challenge is all about!!!” 

Added Costas, “Edwards has to be concerned here. He is 0 and 2 on birthday challenges when coming off a full-time job, and 0 and 5 on food challenges when someone has vomited.”

 The next morning, Florine dropped the fritter challenge straight away. Once again, King Pin proved too big for athletic endeavors. All else was still a go, and the pair set off for Middle Cathedral.

 On the EBM, Florine came up with an efficient and fast strategy: a 25-meter rope, some nuts and a few cams, ” slings for harnesses, and a few free biners. Florine would climb to the end of the rope then put in a piece and Edwards would start. When out of gear he would stop and belay. The weather had turned in their favor: beautiful, sunny, with a slight breeze—a world apart from the sweltering darkness At mid-point of the route, an irritated Walton grabbed a birthday cake and said,

“Let me have this, They don’t deserve it. Has anyone told these guys that it’s a birthday CHALLENGE!”

Chimed in sidekick Steve Jones, “Bill, are you insane? They’re ahead of schedule. In fact, they’re ahead of Florine and Peter Cowards time.”

They finished in 1 hour and 30 minutes, Florine’s 2nd fastest roped ascent, and it came without rushing. The descent was at a more casual pace but they still went car to car in 2:45.

 

 Feeling much better with the breeze, the climbers exuded confidence. They did some flat running back to Manure Pile, where they encountered their next challenge: the weekend hordes. Proper ethics dictate that you don’t repeat routes on a birthday, so they had to weave there way up the buttress, moved right or left to avoid both roped parties and lines they had done before. With the weather still on their side, it was a joy. They did some pitches new to both of them, all classic. By choosing face lines with little or no protection, they were able to avoid the droves of weekend warriors, impressing Costas,

“Both Florine and Edwards are undefeated when able to completely avoid other climbers on a Sunday in June on Manure Pile Buttress while soloing and wearing collared shirts after eating 2 pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and one King Pin Apple Fritter. So they’ve got to be happy about that.”

 

Back at the house, the party was tired but upbeat. The down-climbing had taken its toll, and Edwards was having foot and leg problems; with both blisters and a suspect achillies tendon, he spent his break taping his feet, stretching, and eating ice cream. Florine looked confident, slurping on a tub and selecting the proper music for his MP3 player. Coach A provided a ride to the trailhead and a fine pep talk, before the motivated pair sauntered off on what they hoped would be an easy run home.

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 Neither had done the trail beforehand. All they knew was that it started at Glacier Point (7,000’) and finished at Wawona Tunnel (4,500). Over the total distance, they were hoping to have a lot of gentle downhill and flat running.

 The first few miles were almost entirely uphill. This caused the miles to go slowly but both were confident that would change, since it had to go down at some point. A few miles in, Edwards started feeling ill effects from the ice cream. Once a voracious eater, his depressing, sedentary lifestyle has whittled his nutritional intake to mainly alcohol, and he hadn’t had ice cream in many months. At the crest of the run, he had to completely stop and nearly puked.

“This is astonishing, baby!” said Vitale, “The Big E! The Big Eater!! The Egg Challenge, The Fritter Challenge, the guy who once ate 3 pints of Ben & Jerry’s Butter Pecan, with over 100 grams of fat per, in one sitting!!. Yeah, baby! He’s lookin’ green. He’s lookin’ old. Too much of the old 9 to 5!! I love this game!!!”

 On what turned out to be the only moderately downhill (meaning fast) part of the run, Edwards had to attempt to catch Florine, who didn’t notice he had halted to retch. Chick Hearn adds the play by play:

 “Florine and Edwards, moving at a good pace, left to right across your radio dial. Florine, 6’1” 150, 15th year out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, is moving quickly down hill. I don’t think he knows Edwards has dropped behind. Edwards, in his 16th year out of UCLA— Walton, “Did somebody say UCLA? That reminds of when Coach Wooden used to—Hearn “—shut up, Bill…Edwards now covering a lot of ground. I think he’s moving faster than at any time during the day—Wait, Edwards is airborne, must of caught a toe or something, he’s heading straight for that wall of rocks, he’s got to auger in. Better call the fire department, Stu, Edwards’s getting burned.”

 Able to shake off what could have been a devastating fall, the pair proceeded on, miffed at how the trail could continue to go up in elevation. The ascents were long and gradual, while the descents were too steep to allow the pair to make up much time. By the time they arrived at Dewey Point, only 3 miles (7K) from the finish, the run had been a net elevation GAIN. This meant that the finish would lose nearly 3,000 feet in 3 miles. Can you say sandbagged?

 Vin Scully, “Speaking of sandbagging, that reminds me of a story. Once, back in the minors. The Pawtucket Herrings, whom, if you recall, were a farm team for the Red Sox, made a deal with their rival team from Walla Walla, the farm team of the dreaded Yankees. Back then, you could use designated hitters in the minors, but Casey Stengle wanted his pitcher to hit. So he made a deal with Connie Mack to play big league rules and allow the pitchers to hit. And you know why, Ross, because his pitcher that afternoon was none other than Babe Ruth. Of course the Yankees got back at the Sox when they acquired Ruth in a trade years later—and with 3 miles to go, our heroes are WALKING.”

 “If I could have designed the worst possible run for our current condition, given the geographical parameters that we already knew existed, this would be it.” Said Edwards about the trail that had continued to drop at a steeper and steeper angle. His legs were already abused from the down-climbing and he found the steep drop unbearable. By the last mile, nearly all the muscular coordination in his legs was gone.

“All I could consider, over and over, was to try and evaluate whether or not I had ever been in as much physical pain in my life.” He said, “and I couldn’t really come up with anything.” To try and alleviate the pain, Florine took to walking backwards down the trail. Edwards attempted it but lacked the coordination to walk backwards. In fact, it looked as though it took all he had to not just stop.

 On the ride home, Florine wondered about the prospect of doing the challenge alone.

“ I wonder how I would have felt? I would have gone a lot faster.”

 “You probably would feel like me” said Edwards.

 “I can hardly imagine feeling much worse. I’m completely worked. I feel terrible.” added Hans.

 Back home, Hans hit the shower and Edwards, looking bad, collapsed on the floor. “I felt like Laurent Fignon after the Tour de France when he’d lost to LeMond. All I could think about as I lay there was that they got him up. ‘I have to get up’ I would say. But I couldn’t.” Coach A came to the rescue with some stern talk. You CAN’T lie there. There are people coming over and you can’t let ‘em see you like that! You’re going to get up, take a shower, and even if you are about to pass out, sit there nonchalantly with a beer in your hand and say, “It wasn’t too bad.”

 This strategy worked wonderfully until Edwards suspiciously fumbled a piece of fish during dinner and lacked the ability to properly pick it up. A few moments later, Florine let a beer slide through his fingers and onto the table with barely a reaction. The air of invincibility was dashed but the guests went easy on them. After all … it was Hans’ birthday party.