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Emily Harrington Climbs El Cap’s Golden Gate Route in One Day, 4th Person to Do So

There have only been three climbers to have ever climbed El Capitan’s Golden Gate route in one day, and on November 4th Emily Harrington became the fourth. On top of adding her name to the history book, Harrington also broke boundaries for women by becoming the first woman to ever do the route in less than 24 hours. She’s also the fourth woman to free climb El Cap in a day via any route, now joining the ranks of Lynn Hill, Steph Davis, and Mayan Smith-Gobat.

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For Harrington, it’s been a long uphill battle to achieve what at times felt like a monumental goal. She first freed the 41-pitch route back in 2015, after a grueling six-day climb. On November 7th, she returned with hopes of linking up the 3,000-foot in just one day. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to push through the last crux near the top. Undeterred she returned again weeks later to give things another go. On November 26th, what was appearing to be a strong attempt turned nightmarish when Harrington took a serious fall. She sustained a number of injuries, one of being a large gash on her neck from the rope that partially wrapped itself around her neck. The ordeal led to an emergency rescue by her climbing partners Alex Honnold and Adrian Ballinger and Yosemite Search and Rescue.

Still, Harrington never let go of her dream of completing Golden Gate in just a day. Reflecting on her motivation for this goal Harrington writes, “I never believed I could actually free climb El Cap in a day when I first set the goal for myself. It didn’t seem like a realistic objective for me. I didn’t have the skills, fitness, or risk profile to move so quickly over such a large piece of stone. But I chose it exactly for that reason. Impossible dreams challenge us to rise above who we are now to see if we can become better versions of ourselves."

This fall, she returned to Yosemite with Honnold and Ballinger to try again. On November 4th, Harrington’s better version of herself became a reality when she stood at the top of El Capitan with a final climb time of 21 hours, 13 minutes and 51 seconds. Despite a nasty slip on the 13a Golden Desert pitch, resulting in a deep gash on her forehead, and fighting through the section where she fell last year, Harrington was able to keep pushing towards her goal. Now she joins Tommy Caldwell, Alex Honnold, and Brad Gobright as one of the few in the world to ever complete the route in such a narrow timeframe. 

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