8-Year-Old Colorado Climber Is About to Reach Summit of Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan

by Craig Garrett
El Capitan, Yosemite - stock photo

The 8-year-old from Colorado climbing to be the youngest person to summit El Capitan in Yosemite National Park is more than halfway there. This is according to his climbing companion and father, CNN reports. Sam Adventure Baker, along with his father Joe Baker, started their hike on Tuesday. They plan to camp one night at the top of El Capitan and then hike down 8 miles within four days.

“We just crawled into our sacs on our port-a-ledge. Sam is out like a light,” Joe Baker said in a Facebook post. This was just after 1 a.m. PT Thursday. “Lots of fun still to go. We got another big day tomorrow to get to our next hanging camp. Sam showed so much courage today. I was blown away at his resilience and stamina into the night. We have already crossed the halfway point. Up we go.” 

Joe says that, for him and his son, the climbing experience has been life-changing. El Capitan, the park’s most famous towering rock structure, is situated higher than 3,000 feet above the valley floor. El Capitan is a Class 5 climb – which means it’s not only challenging but also dangerous.

Climbing El Capitan is not without risk

“He seems really happy to be up there and spirits are high,” Sam’s mother, Ann Baker, told CNN. Ann said that since Sam grew up in a climbing family, she has always been supportive of his passion for the sport. Ann and Joe discovered their love for rock climbing, and Sam “was in a harness before he could walk,” Joe said.

According to a post from Joe made overnight Wednesday, Sam and his father determined to make it about one-third of the way up El Capitan. They stopped for a break to eat Mac and Cheese and watch the first half of The Lion King before camping for the night.

“The stars are so bright that they cast shadows as they beautifully silhouette behind the Captian that ominously hangs over us. The coming pitches look so much steeper,” Joe wrote. Sam’s father said that, for the last 18 months at least, Sam had been training to take on El Capitan every day. The father and son are climbing as part of a team of four, with one person leading the way and setting up ropes for the others to follow.

Between the Southwest and Southeast faces of El Capitan, there is a prow. While today there are many established routes on both faces, The Nose route is the most popular and historically famous route. Between 1905 and 2018, more than thirty people died while climbing El Capitan. Some experts believe that the recent increase in fatalities (five deaths from 2013 to 2018) is due to increased competition around timed ascents, social media attention, and competing for deals with equipment manufacturers or advertisers.