Tahoe City woman sets record for El Capitan free climb – KCRA Sacramento

Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan. To gaze upon it is to be mesmerized by its massiveness. The behemoth rock formation’s sheer vertical face makes it a draw for rock climbers all over the world. Tahoe City’s Emily Harrington is one of them.On Nov. 4, while most of us slept, (or didn’t sleep, depending on how closely we followed the general election a day prior) Harrington became the first woman to free climb the Golden Gate route of El Capitan in a single day.”It was not certain that I was going to achieve it until I reached the top,” said Harrington of her awe-inducing ascent. But reach the top she did, setting a record and becoming part of an exclusive group of women to conquer a feat of this nature in the process. “I was the fourth woman, overall, to free climb any route on El Cap in a day.”Aside from the obvious challenge scaling a 3,000-foot rock formation presents, Harrington needed to get beyond her past attempts to climb the Golden Gate route in that one-day timeframe.”It was something that was really, extremely difficult for me, and I failed at it three times before,” she explained.An inspiration to younger climbersHarrington’s determination — as solid as El Capitan itself — is built on a foundational love of rock climbing, which had her hooked immediately, after she first tried it at the age of 10.”It sort of just felt like I belonged there and all I wanted to do was climb after that point on.”Motivated through the years by the forewomen in her sport, she’s pleased to be a role model now for others.”It feels pretty special that young girls do look up to me and are inspired by me in the things that I’ve done.”A challenge along the wayAnd no doubt inspired by what she overcame during one of the more challenging parts of this climb when Harrington lost sure footing. She endured a slip that would send her careening into El Cap’s unforgiving granite surface. Bloodied from a head wound but undeterred, Harrington rested a bit, then got back onward and upward toward her goal of reaching the top.Harrington says she’s not a big believer in “beating her nerves” or “conquering fear.” Instead, she prefers to work through those high emotions to help her focus.”For me, it’s about accepting those emotions and understanding that they’re never going to go away,” Harrington said. “I just have to learn how to deal with them is really the trick more than anything. It can be uncomfortable, but I think the outcome is worth it.”The outcome for Harrington: an ascent, half a mile straight up from where she started, completed in 21 hours, 13 minutes and 51 seconds, according to her smartphone’s stopwatch.When asked “What’s next?” Harrington paused to think and replied, “I can always get better and I can always do more … but right now, I’m just focused on climbing for fun.”‘Free climb’ vs. ‘free solo’You might recognize the term “free solo” from the Academy Award-winning documentary, “Free Solo,” which chronicled Sacramento native Alex Honnold’s June 2017 ascent of El Capitan via its Freerider route.Free soloing is when rock climbers climb without a rope. To date, Honnold is the only person to free solo El Capitan.Free climbing, as Harrington described it, is the process of ascending a rock face, using your hands and feet — equipped with a rope for protection in case of a fall. The rope is not used to assist the climbers with the ascent itself.| RELATED | Mom of ‘Free Solo’ climber Alex Honnold makes climbing history too

Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan. To gaze upon it is to be mesmerized by its massiveness. The behemoth rock formation’s sheer vertical face makes it a draw for rock climbers all over the world. Tahoe City’s Emily Harrington is one of them.

On Nov. 4, while most of us slept, (or didn’t sleep, depending on how closely we followed the general election a day prior) Harrington became the first woman to free climb the Golden Gate route of El Capitan in a single day.

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“It was not certain that I was going to achieve it until I reached the top,” said Harrington of her awe-inducing ascent. But reach the top she did, setting a record and becoming part of an exclusive group of women to conquer a feat of this nature in the process. “I was the fourth woman, overall, to free climb any route on El Cap in a day.”

Aside from the obvious challenge scaling a 3,000-foot rock formation presents, Harrington needed to get beyond her past attempts to climb the Golden Gate route in that one-day timeframe.

“It was something that was really, extremely difficult for me, and I failed at it three times before,” she explained.

An inspiration to younger climbers

Harrington’s determination — as solid as El Capitan itself — is built on a foundational love of rock climbing, which had her hooked immediately, after she first tried it at the age of 10.

“It sort of just felt like I belonged there and all I wanted to do was climb after that point on.”

Motivated through the years by the forewomen in her sport, she’s pleased to be a role model now for others.

“It feels pretty special that young girls do look up to me and are inspired by me in the things that I’ve done.”

A challenge along the way

And no doubt inspired by what she overcame during one of the more challenging parts of this climb when Harrington lost sure footing. She endured a slip that would send her careening into El Cap’s unforgiving granite surface. Bloodied from a head wound but undeterred, Harrington rested a bit, then got back onward and upward toward her goal of reaching the top.

Harrington says she’s not a big believer in “beating her nerves” or “conquering fear.” Instead, she prefers to work through those high emotions to help her focus.

“For me, it’s about accepting those emotions and understanding that they’re never going to go away,” Harrington said. “I just have to learn how to deal with them is really the trick more than anything. It can be uncomfortable, but I think the outcome is worth it.”

The outcome for Harrington: an ascent, half a mile straight up from where she started, completed in 21 hours, 13 minutes and 51 seconds, according to her smartphone’s stopwatch.

Jon Glassberg, Louder Than 11

At the top: Emily Harrington shows her smartphone stopwatch indicating the time it took her to free climb the Golden Gate route of  Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan rock formation 

When asked “What’s next?” Harrington paused to think and replied, “I can always get better and I can always do more … but right now, I’m just focused on climbing for fun.”

‘Free climb’ vs. ‘free solo’

You might recognize the term “free solo” from the Academy Award-winning documentary, “Free Solo,” which chronicled Sacramento native Alex Honnold’s June 2017 ascent of El Capitan via its Freerider route.

Free soloing is when rock climbers climb without a rope. To date, Honnold is the only person to free solo El Capitan.

Free climbing, as Harrington described it, is the process of ascending a rock face, using your hands and feet — equipped with a rope for protection in case of a fall. The rope is not used to assist the climbers with the ascent itself.

| RELATED | Mom of ‘Free Solo’ climber Alex Honnold makes climbing history too