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Emily Harrington Becomes First Woman To Free-Climb El Capitan In A Day

by : Mike Williams on :
emilyaharrington/instagram

American climber Emily Harrington has successfully made it to the top of El Capitan, making her the first woman to do so – and she did it all in under a day.

Harrington, 34, became a record-breaker as she free-climbed (that’s without the aid of proper mountaineering equipment to help movement) her way to the summit of Yosemite National Park’s famous El Capitan, in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Not only was she the first woman to do this, but smashed it out in under a day, clocking in at an impressive 21 hours and 13 minutes.

Reaching a height of 3,000 feet (1,000 metres), she  documented the grueling journey, posting videos and photographs to her Instagram following of over 200,000.

Sharing her thoughts on the feat, she expressed happiness: ‘I never believed I could actually free-climb El Cap in a day when I first set the goal for myself,’ she wrote.

‘Impossible dreams challenge us to rise above who we are now to see if we can become better versions of ourselves.’

Beginning the enormous challenge on November 4, she admitted that as well as needing the mental focus to achieve her goal, the 2020 US election was heavily on her mind, noting her own ‘internal drama of achieving a life goal.’

Alongside her were two other free-climbers: her boyfriend, Adrian Ballinger, who is a Mount Everest guide, and a third companion in the shape of Alex Honnold, a person that made free-climbing history when, in 2017, he ascended to the top of El Capitan unaided and on his own.

But her achievement wasn’t without some drama, as she documented a slip that caused injury along the way.

‘A deep gash on my forehead left me bloody and defeated. I pulled on again, part of me not really wanting to stay on the wall, the other part gathering courage and flow,’  she captioned her most recent post, as a photographer snapped a nasty-looking cut.

View this post on Instagram

Golden Gate ✨ Free 💫 In A Day ⚡️ 📸 @jonglassberg / @jess_talley / @louderthan11 I never believed I could actually free climb El Cap in a day when I first set the goal for myself. It didn’t seem like a realistic objective for me. I didn’t have the skills, fitness, or risk profile to move so quickly over such a large piece of stone. But I chose it exactly for that reason. Impossible dreams challenge us to rise above who we are now to see if we can become better versions of ourselves. On Nov 4 I started climbing with @alexhonnold at 1:34am, caught between my own internal drama of achieving a life goal and the more prevalent one of the elections – both unfolding in parallel ways in my brain. I knew I was in for a big day – but that’s exactly why I was there. I wanted to find my limit and exist in it and fight beyond it. A nasty slip on the 13a Golden Desert pitch almost took my resolve – a deep gash on my forehead left me bloody and defeated. I pulled on again, part of me not really wanting to stay on the wall, the other part gathering courage and flow. I kept thinking “why am I still hanging on?” The next pitch was the A5 traverse, where I failed last year. This time it was not my limit. I fought hard but with flawless movements in the dark. I cried at the belay – it could happen this time….The final 5 pitches felt scary in my current state but I pulled over the final lip at 10:30pm in disbelief. There’s a lot more to say but mostly I wanted to express my gratitude for the love and support from friends, family, and strangers. I feel the love so intensely right now. Thank you all 🙏🏻 Massive thanks to @alexhonnold for climbing with me over these years, you’ve inspired me to think bigger and believe in myself in ways you cannot imagine. To @jonglassberg for your friendship, creativity, and ability to capture a story while at the same time keeping it light and always fun. And finally to my best friend, partner, lover, fave human of all time @adrianballinger – your support and love for me through the darkness and the light has never wavered. I love you endlessly ❤️❤️❤️ More to come!!! @thenorthface / @kodiakcakes / @petzl_official / @lasportivana

A post shared by ᴇᴍɪʟʏ ʜᴀʀʀɪɴɢᴛᴏɴ (@emilyaharrington) on

While free-climbers don’t use climbing gear in the traditional sense to aid the ascension, they do have rope and some basics as a safety measure to prevent plummeting to one’s death, obviously.

To put Emily’s impressive win into perspective, it once took climbers weeks to get up the tricky terrain of El Capitan. Having taken the Golden Gate route, only three people before her has free-climbed to glory – all men – so thought it was about time a woman joined the club.

‘I spent a lot of years feeling like I didn’t belong, like maybe I hadn’t earned my place to be a Yosemite climber,’ she revealed to the San Francisco Chronicle. ‘But throughout this experience I learned that there is no belonging or not belonging, no formula to achievement up there.’

Excellent work, Emily!

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Topics: Life, Record Breaking

Credits

The San Francisco Chronicle
  1. The San Francisco Chronicle

    Yosemite climber becomes first woman to free climb harrowing, 3,000-foot route in under 24 hours