9 Year Old Climbs El Capitan

Over four days and three nights in mid-September, Pearl Johnson, age 9, climbed the Triple Direct route on El Capitan, earning her the title as the youngest person to ascend the 3,000-foot formation. Pearl climbed with her mother, Janet, and a family friend, Nick Sullens, of Yosemite Search and Rescue. Pearl’s dad, Philip, a law enforcement ranger in the park, met them at the top.

“Someone asked me if I was nervous, and I said ‘No,’” Janet said after. “I knew I was comfortable up there. I’ve climbed a lot with Pearl. I knew what she was capable of.”

Pearl, however, was nervous, according to Sullens. “A lot of time was spent overcoming her fear,” Sullens said. “I was impressed with her wanting to keep going. If it were me at nine, I would have wanted to be out of there. Sometimes she would say, ‘I want this to be over, this is really scary.’ I would offer to bail and be down in two hours, and she would say she wanted to be there. She had a desire to pursue the goal. She wanted to climb that mountain.”

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