An eight-year-old boy has embarked on his trek to Yosemite’s El Capitan — a 3,000-foot climb — in hopes of becoming the youngest to ever reach the summit.
Sam Baker, of Colorado Springs, has been climbing since he was two years old and has been training to climb El Capitan since he was six.
The nearly straight cliff is 3,000 feet of granite, where climbers “hang by their fingertips or their anchors,” Sam’s father Joe said.
The climb, which started Tuesday, will take four to five days and they will meet his mother Ann, who is hiking at the back of the mountain, at the top.
Despite the boy’s courage and excitement, critics blame his father for letting Sam perform such a “dangerous” stunt in a location where more than 100 accidents occur each year.
El Capitan is largely considered a stunt only experienced climbers should risk, but Sam seems confident that his three-week training will deliver this difficult climb.
But if anything, Sam is just excited to enjoy lasagna from a hammock on the cliff.
Sam Baker, eight, of Colorado Springs, (left) began climbing Yosemite’s El Capitan (pictured) Tuesday with his father Joe (right) and two others
If Sam completes the challenge, he will be the youngest person to reach the top. The young climber said he is most excited about eating lasagna and sleeping on the cliff (Photo: Sam on El Capitan)
The group (photo) is about a third of the way up from Wednesday morning. The entire climb is expected to take four or five days
Sam has been climbing with his dad since he was two and has been preparing to climb El Cap since he was six
“We’ll sleep on ledges and eat lasagna,” Sam . told me Good morning America (GMA).
Despite some weary concerns, veteran climber Emily Harrington — who has climbed El Capitan twice — told GMA that Sam and Joe’s method of “assistance climbing” is “actually quite safe.”
“They’re essentially using the protection to climb the wall,” she told the outlet.
‘The most common and the most common’ [used] one is called auxiliary climbing, which is when you use ropes and protection. You actually use those things to help you climb the wall, and that has probably been done by thousands of people.
“If he’s excited to be up there and have an adventure with his dad, I don’t see it” [issue] not at all in terms of safety and risk. It’s not a dangerous form of climbing.’
Harrington, who said rock climbing when she was 10, said El Capitan, no matter how they “choose to climb,” is a “wonderful adventure however you do it.”
Sam has trained on several other mountains (pictured) leading up to the climb, which is usually only done by experienced climbers
Despite Sam’s enthusiasm, critics have criticized his father for letting him do the perilous climb, in which about 100 accidents occur each year.
His father claims they are climbing, it was the ‘safest’ way possible and that Sam (pictured on another excursion) will never be off his harness, even while sleeping, eating and using the toilet
The youngest person to ever reach the top of the mountain was Selah Schneiter, then 10, in 2019.
Joe said in a video on his Facebook that Sam “knows this is going to be very, very hard and he needs to train for it.”
“We trained for it every day,” Joe said, accompanied by a video of his young son clambering down the side of their house and climbing inside rock walls.
“You only come to El Capitan if you’re an expert in the sport. That’s what we’re developing, a young man who is an expert in the sport. He can really do everything the great climbers can do.’
Joe also said that there is “never a moment” when Sam is released from his harness, even while he is eating, sleeping or going to the toilet.
Joe also uses climbing to teach Sam how to be a man, saying he’s “proud” to see “the identity he owns is his own.” To see the warrior spirit come out of him, he wants it, he is interested in his own self-control’
His mother Ann also said they “wouldn’t just push him to do it just because he must be eight when he does it.”
“It’s okay if we don’t make it,” Joe said in the video he posted to his Facebook. “It will still be a life-changing adventure that we will talk about forever.”
Just hours after his climb, Sam posted a photo of himself hanging from ropes off the sheer cliff, writing: ‘Underestimate me! Because I need a good laugh.’
On Wednesday morning, Sam, Joe and their friend Maison DesChamp were about a third of the way up, stopping near Mammoth Ledge to enjoy “mac and cheese and watch the first half of the Lion King,” his said. father on his Facebook page.
“Now it’s starting to get really cold, but Sam doesn’t know because he sees logs in his mummy bag hugging next to me,” Joe wrote.
Sam is the oldest of three and his mother Ann (pictured together) will meet the group at the top. She’s going for a walk up the mountain
Much of the climbing for Joe uses it as a method to help “initiate” Sam into “masculinity.”
“How does a boy become a man, it’s such an important question,” the father of three wondered. “The answer is initiation. Elementary school isn’t working, you know? He is invited to some great adventures with his father. As parents, we can create that environment — completely shape that environment — where our children can actually find great courage and strength.
“It’s not about him being a mountaineer… What we’re really seeing happening here is seeing the identity emerge that he owns, that is his. To see the warrior spirit come out of him, he wants it, he is interested in his own self-control.
“As a father, I’m very proud to see it,” Joe said in the video. “This is one of those moments he will remember. I want that for him.’
El Capitan is the ‘ultimate challenge’ for climbers
The mountain is 2.5 times taller than the Empire State Building and three times taller than the Eiffel Tower.
It stands over 3,000 feet above the valley floor and is one of the most difficult climbs to complete.
The rock was once thought to be impossible to climb, but has since been climbed by many and has been the subject of several films.
There are several ways to climb El Cap including free climbing and with assistance and a range of routes to take.
Many take the ‘The Nose’ route, including then 10-year-old Selah Schneiter, who completed the climb in 2019. She is the current title holder for the youngest to climb it.
Another more beginner-friendly route is the Salathe Wall, while the Tempest is one of the most difficult.
The first ascent of The Nose was in 1958. Despite being one of the easiest routes, nearly half of the reported incidents on the mountain occur on that route.
The mountain sees about 100 accidents per year and 30 fatalities have been recorded as of 2018.
In 2018, two climbers — Tim Klein, 42, and Jason Wells, 46, of Boulder, Colorado — collapsed to their deaths. Experts suspect they forgot to attach a rope to an anchor while using a risky technique known as simultaneous climbing, which increases speed.
They fell from about 300 meters on June 2, 2018, to the horror of witnesses.
“It was very traumatic,” a witness told the… Seattle Times in 2018.