Story of Boy, 8, 'Climbing' El Capitan Raises Eyebrows

Experts say Sam Baker didn't technically 'climb' California rock formation
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 29, 2022 7:00 AM CDT
Updated Nov 5, 2022 5:25 PM CDT

Update: Some veteran rock climbers are speaking out after Sam Adventure Baker's ascent of El Capitan made headlines last week, the Daily Beast reports. Experts tell the San Francisco Chronicle that the 8-year-old and his father used a technique known as "jugging," in which they used ascenders—handheld devices that slide up the climbing rope and then auto-lock into place—combined with foot loops that can hold a person's weight, allowing them to "shimmy" up the rope without actually scaling the rock face. The guides that led the father and son team did the actual rock climbing, fixing the ropes for Sam and his dad to "jug up," the experts say. Our original story from Saturday follows:

Adventure is Sam Baker's middle name. No, really, that's his actual middle name, and the 8-year-old proved its hold over him on Friday as he became the youngest person to ever climb El Capitan in California's Yosemite National Park. "What an amazing week! I'm so proud of Sam," Joe Baker, Sam's dad, wrote in a Facebook post honoring the achievement Friday evening. "He completed the youngest rope ascent of ElCap!" CNN reports that the father-and-son team, as well as two other climbers helping set the ropes, began their trek up the "3,000 vertical feet of sheer rock granite" on Tuesday, with local media tracking their progress.

Baker also posted updates throughout their mission to his Facebook page, noting that he was "blown away at [Sam's] resilience and stamina"—which maybe isn't terribly surprising, as Baker says Sam has been "in a harness before he could walk." The two are now reveling in the completion of their task, with Baker writing, "We will be in afterglow for days." Before Sam's achievement, the youngest person to climb El Capitan was 9-year-old Pearl Johnson, who completed her own ascent in 2019, per the Sacramento Bee and Outside. So how will Sam and his dad celebrate on Saturday? Hiking the 8 miles back to civilization, Baker wrote in his post. (More El Capitan stories.)

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