A rock-climbing legend and record holder who has scaled Yosemite's El Capitan 177 times and wrote a book about his "lifelong obsession" with the climb survived a harrowing plunge on El Capitan's nose Thursday. Hans Florine, 53, was 2,300 feet above the floor of Yosemite Valley when the wedge of metal he had just placed into a crack in the rock failed and he fell about 20 feet, injuring both legs. "You are placing gear into a small crack all the way along for 3,000 feet. You place in gear every 3 to 6 feet," he explains to NBC Bay Area. "You step on it and it feels OK and then you step on it and place another piece," he further explains to ABC 7, adding that the wedges of metal are called "stoppers" or "nuts." He tested the one he had just placed, but when he stood up on it, it popped out of the rock.
The piece he had placed 4 feet lower held and caught him, but the rope securing Florine "didn’t come tight until I had already banged my heels, landed on a ledge, and then fell another four or five feet over the ledge," the climber says. Then "I flipped upside down, actually had my back against the wall, head down." He and his climbing partner were able to lower themselves 200 feet to a ledge where they could wait for rescuers; while waiting, Florine posted to Instagram, "Well, there is a rescue going on, on El Capitan. And it's me. I think I broke my leg. Rescuers please be safe." He even shot some video he posted later. He broke his left ankle and shattered his right heel and will have surgery on both, but he says he will focus on his motto: "Do hard things." (A climber following a "big dream" was killed at the base of El Capitan last year.)