HomeNewsFirst Woman, Fourth Person Ever, Completes El Capitan Free-Climb in One Day

First Woman, Fourth Person Ever, Completes El Capitan Free-Climb in One Day

by Jennifer Shea
Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A 34-year-old woman became the fourth person, and the first woman, to make it up a difficult route on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in one day.

Professional rock climber Emily Harrington spent Wednesday free climbing the Golden Gate route up the 3,000-foot granite wall, the Associated Press reports. 

Free Climbing Up El Capitan 

Free climbing entails the use of a rope only to stop the climber’s fall, not to help the climber ascend the mountain.

Harrington lives in North Lake Tahoe. She set her sights on the Golden Gate route five years ago, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

El Capitan is seen as the ultimate challenge for competitive climbing’s top athletes. But few people have taken that particular path up the mountain in 24 hours. Harrington said she relished the test.

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

Harrington made the ascent with help from her boyfriend, Adrian Ballinger, a Mount Everest guide, and Alex Honnold, who has free climbed up El Capitan himself.

She has climbed the Golden Gate route before, but this was the first time she made it in a single day. Last November, she fell 40 feet and had to be carried from the foot of the wall on a stretcher.

A Frightening Fall

This time, Harrington spent 21 hours and 13 minutes pulling herself up El Capitan’s wall. The climb involved a frightening fall and some creative footwork. At one point, on one of Golden Gate’s more gnarly sections, Harrington’s foot slipped, sending her head crashing into the rock wall.

“Blood just started pouring down her face, dripping onto me at the belay,” Ballinger told the Chronicle. “We immediately thought her day was done. It was a wild, scary flashback to last year’s fall.”

She rested for an hour. The three of them decided she didn’t have a concussion. Then she resumed her climb.

Harrington reached the top of El Capitan at 10:45 p.m., a few hours before her deadline. 

“Honestly it started out as a dream I never really thought I could achieve. But putting in the effort felt worthy and interesting,” Harrington told Climbing Magazine. “But free climbing El Cap in a day is such a game of errors and margins. Nothing is ever perfect up there so you have to just keep pushing through until you manage it.”