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She Was Badly Hurt in Her Last Shot at El Capitan. Now, Success

Emily Harrington becomes first woman to free-climb Yosemite rock formation in less than 24 hours
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 9, 2020 10:15 AM CST

(Newser) – Last November, Emily Harrington got banged up pretty badly 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. Better news this time around: The 34-year-old achieved that feat on Wednesday, pulling herself over the top edge of the wall after 21 hours, 13 minutes, and 51 seconds of climbing, report 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.

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"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." 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, per CNN. Read more from behind the scenes of her climb at Outside. (Read more El Capitan stories.)

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