Kids can do some wildly awesome things. While we’re busy focusing on the various gripings that inundate the adult world, kids are growing up, watching, learning, and doing impressive stuff. For the first eight years of life, children are naturally acquiring language skills through song, games, and the like. For Selah Schneiter? She was learning rock climbing, too. Not only was she learning it, but in early June she went on the become the youngest climber ever to climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.
The 3,000-foot granite rock face has been the bastion of professional climbers for years, gaining more recent popularity with the Oscar-winning Documentary Free Solo. While the cliff face is iconic, not just anyone can climb El Capitan, one of the most challenging destinations in the world of rock climbing.
After five days on El Cap our ten year old daughter topped out, fulfilling a longtime goal that she had worked hard towards. More to come about an amazing experience. #elcap #goals #defygravity #yosemitenationalpark #thenose
She grew up around climbing, hiking, and the outdoors. Their family isn’t your run-of-the-mill day-hike family. With 85% of people allergic to Poison Ivy, that’s a general concern for the average hiker, but the Schneiter family is anything but average in their outdoor activities. They’re the type of family that can climb El Capitan for fun.
Schneiter — at 10 years old — along with her father and a family friend made their ascent together over a five day period. They camped each night suspended from the side of the face of El Cap. On the fifth day, Schneiter’s father documented the moment on Instagram:
“After five days on El Cap our ten-year-old daughter topped out, fulfilling a longtime goal that she had worked hard towards. More to come about an amazing experience,” the caption reads.
People have been climbing El Cap since 1958 and since then there have been over 100 ascent routes mapped. Twenty-five people have died climbing El Cap. Before Schneiter, 11-year-old Scott Cory climbed it twice in 2001, then 13-year-old Tori Allen became the youngest girl to climb it back in 2011. But, Selah Schneiter now has the claim of that prize and has every reason to be proud of her achievement. As tears poured down her face, her father asked if they were happy tears.
“I can’t believe I just did that,” she said.
She had carried 30 pounds of gear, food, water, etc. which roughly equates to a third of her body weight. All the way up, until it was done.
Once she topped out, she was the first one to go up to this tree, that is a symbolic thing for climbers, and she just broke down in tears,” her father said. “She said it was her first happy tears she’s ever had.”
It’s easy for outsiders to downplay the technical rigor and training it takes to climb such a massive rock face. Doing more than seven hours of physical activity every day is the recipe for longer life and you better believe her training was more than that. She had the entire route to the top memorized, often guiding her father and their friend when they would forget where to go. She had been training on smaller mountains for months prior, perfecting everything down to setting up a suspended sleeping ledge. But, as her dad reports, for her, that rock face may as well have been her home for five days.
Growing up learning climbing, Selah says she likes being away from the noise of people and being in nature. That’s key for her. With Americans spending an average of eight and a half hours in front of screens every day, she’s on to something. With enough practice, the skills become second nature. But, her thoughts on the whole thing?
“Our big motto was ‘How do you eat an elephant?’ Small bites. One pitch at a time. One move at a time. One day at a time.”
Next up, she wants to bring her 7-year-old little brother. Nothing like a family name on the records of one of the most infamous climbing feats on earth.