Emily Harrington Makes History


Photo by Lukas Schulz on Unsplash

After two previous attempts, the most recent landing her in the hospital and taking her out for the season, Emilly Harrington, 34, was the first woman to climb the Golden Gate route of Yosemite’s El Capitan in one day. She began her climb at 1:34 A.M., moving up the 3,000-foot line.


Near one of the route’s most difficult sections, Harrington slipped and fell sideways, hitting her head on a crystal of rock, and was left with a large gash above her eyebrow. She told ABC, “There was part of me that didn’t want to climb again. I was so emotionally drained and exhausted.” She lowered herself to her partner, Adrian Ballinger, who checked her vitals, cleaned up her wound and applied a bandage, determining that she was physically okay to climb again. It was now a matter of whether or not she wished to go on. 


A climb like this requires not only physical strength but mental and emotional stamina as well. After 21 hours, 13 minutes, and 51 seconds Harrington reached the top. She is now the first woman and fourth person to free climb the Golden Gate route in a day, and fourth woman to free climb El Capitan in under 24 hours by any route. 


Though most major news outlets have since updated their information, many including the BBC, CNN, NBC, Sports Illustrated, and The Guardian characterized Harrington as being the first woman to ever free climb El Capitan in under 24 hours. These mistakes angered many climbers who saw these misreports as erasure of the achievements of Lynn Hill, who successfully completed the first one day free ascend of the Nose of El Capitan in 1994, as well as Steph Davis and Mayan Smith-Gobat who free climbed the Free Rider, another route on El Capitan, in under 24 hours in 2004 and 2001, respectively. 


“This whole thing has been mortifying in a way,” Harrington told Outside. “I’m the fourth woman to free-climb El Cap in a day, and I’ve never claimed anything different. I’m standing on the shoulders of Lynn Hill, Steph Davis, and Mayan Smith-Gobat, and I have nothing but respect and admiration for them.”