First Yosemite Woman Climber to Ascend 3,000-foot Route in 24 Hours

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The 34-year old Yosemite climber Emily Harrington climbs a 3,000foot granite wall in Yosemite Valley on Wednesday, challenging a world record for the venture. After 21 hours and 13 minutes of climb work, Harrington finally reaches the wall’s peak on Wednesday night. Setting a record for herself, Harrington became the first woman to ever free climb the El Capitan cliff within 24 hours.

According to Harrington, the free climbing experience was never straightforward. She recounted multiple little setbacks during her grapple on the cliff, including a harrowing fall and some creative footwork. After the almost 24-hour long climb, she finally pulled herself on El Capitan’s sheer edge and stand on top of the 3,000-foot tall wall. The feat puts Harrington of the sport’s elite bug wall climbers who completed the task before her, with all three of them being males.

On Friday morning, Harrington shared the inner thoughts she had during the whole feat.

“We had like 21 hours on the wall, so there were times people are checking their phones,” said Harrington. “It was almost a weird parallel, actually,” she added.

A successful competitive climber and a trekking athlete, Harrington has been keeping tabs on the Golden Gate climbing route for five years. For this route, the only rule is for the climber to support himself or herself with only a rope, catching the mountaineer when he or she falls instead of aiding her on her climb.

According to climbers across the globe, it is rare to see a 24-hour, ground-up free-climbing clamber. Several witnesses reported only about 25 people accomplishing that feat on El Capitan, with most of them picking undemanding routes than Golden Gate. However, Harrington craves the obstacle.

“The idea is not to stop until you get to the top,” declared Harrington, adding, “That’s the essence of big-wall free climbing.”

Additionally, Harrington confessed that she clambered the route multiple times in the past, but never within a single day. She survived a scary 40-foot fall from which she suffered several injuries and went back to the wall’s base lying on a stretcher. However, Harrington promised to return this year to attempt it one more time. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, she trained in her home gym uninterrupted for eight consecutive months.

Pro mountain athlete and Harrington’s long-time boyfriend Adrian Ballinger expressed his admiration for his girlfriend’s determination and endurance to take on the challenge.

“She is considerably stronger physically and emotionally than a year ago,” Ballinger said. “She’s a different climber today. But the fear was still there from the fall last year,” he added.

Harrington and Ballinger arrived at the valley and met climber and sports superstar Alex Honnold to film the entire journey. Ballinger and Honnold helped Harrington by dropping her off the route using a rope as support.

According to Harrington, the first 2,000 feet or so went steadily. As Honnold and Harrington zipped past other climbers on the wall, they caught everyone’s attention.

“With Em and Alex, it feels like they’re the king and queen of the wall,” stated Ballinger.

Over the day, Harrington continued her climb against the wall of El Capitan. Soon, she finally made it to the edge of the cliff by 10:45 p.m., ending her climbing journey with a new record and a spare of two hours ahead of her deadline.

From the whole experience, being the first woman to accomplish such an endeavor is what matters most to Harrington as she reminisced her 24-hour scale on Friday morning.

“I spent a lot of years feeling like I didn’t belong. Maybe I hadn’t earned my place to be a Yosemite Climber,” Harrington said. “I was creative and experimental and found my way,” she added.