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Updated November 6, 2020 at 12:26 PM CT

First woman to free-climb Yosemite’s El Cap in less than 24 hours

      One year ago, Emily Harrington was injured after she fell from El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, in an attempt to become the first woman to free-climb the rock formation in less than 24 hours following the tough “Golden Gate” route. 

On Wednesday, the 34-year-old pulled herself over the top edge of the wall after 21 hours, 13 minutes, and 51 seconds of climbing, per the San Francisco Chronicle and the AP. 

Harrington’s achievement—which uses ropes only to catch climbers if they fall, not to help them climb—puts her in a group with just three others, all guys, who’ve done the same. 

About two dozen other climbers have reached the top of El Capitan in under a day, but most have taken easier routes than the Golden Gate path. Thoughts of last year’s fall were present, but Harrington didn’t let them psych her out.

“The fear was still there,” says Harrington’s boyfriend, mountaineer Adrian Ballinger, but “she is considerably stronger physically and emotionally than a year ago.” Not that the 3,000-foot climb, which she began at 1:34am on Wednesday, went off without a hitch: At one point, Harrington fell, then rested for 30 minutes before climbing again. Then she slipped again, and her head smacked into the granite. “Blood just started pouring down her face,” says Ballinger, who assisted her climb, along with elite climber Alex Honnold, who helped rescue Harrington in 2019. “We immediately thought her day was done.” On June 3, 2017, Honnold made the first free solo ascent of El Capitan, completing the 2,900-foot Freerider route in 3 hours and 56 minutes, described as “one of the great athletic feats of any kind, ever.”

But Harrington persisted, and she lifted herself to the top shortly after 10:30pm. “Impossible dreams challenge us to rise above who we are now to see if we can become better versions of ourselves,” she wrote in an Instagram post.


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Ran DeBord - All Access Sporting News

 Follow @AASNSports on Twitter, or me, @RanDeBord

Attributes: AASNSports; SanFranciscoChronicle; AP


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