Emily Harrington Becomes First Woman to Free-Climb El Capitan's Golden Gate Route In Under 24 Hours

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On November 4th at 1:34 am, 34-year-old Emily Harrington attempted her goal of becoming the first woman to free-climb the Golden Gate route of El Capitan in under 24 hours.

Lots of people visit Yosemite National Park and view the magnitude and beauty of El Capitan’s 3,000-foot granite slope. Not many people look at it and think, I should climb that. But for Harrington, this location has been a goal of hers for years. She shared, “Growing up as a rock climber, it’s a feature that you always hear about, it’s a place that you always hear about, it’s sort of on a bucket list for climbers to go visit and to go experience the climbing there.”

In 2019, she attempted the climb but fell 150 feet and was hospitalized. This year she decided to take on the challenge yet again but it wasn’t without injury. Ten hours into the climb Harrington slipped and fell, hitting her head. She received a deep gash on her forehead and went through a concussion check. She was cleared to continue but for a moment contemplated it. “I actually did consider quitting, it was a pretty traumatic moment. It was sort of one of those moments of dread like oh no everything was going so well. Is this the end? Is it over?” Harrington decided to forge on to complete her goal and 21 hours, 13 minutes and 51 seconds later- she accomplished it.

Harrington shared that this was a goal that even when she set it, she wasn’t sure she could succeed- but that was the point. “It’s important to set impossible goals and aspire to achieve them, even if you might not succeed in the end. One thing I think humans are really afraid of is failure and I think that it’s important in a way to embrace failure.” 

Her advice to others who may fear their goals are unattainable is to "Go for it, keep trying, keep working towards it, and don't be so attached to the outcome of success. In a lot of ways the process and the things that you learn from striving towards such a goal is what's important in the end. I was just lucky enough to have success." She credits her success to continually trying and never giving up. 

Harrington overcame her falls, faced her fears and eventually climbed her way to the top of El Capitan. She now joins Tommy Caldwell, Alex Honnold, and Brad Gobright as one of just four in the world to ever complete the route in less than a day. Harrington's journey is an inspiration to all of us to never stop trying to reach our goals- no matter how big they are.