Was the 8-Year-Old’s Climb of El Capitan a Hoax? Youngster’s Achievement Comes Under Scrutiny.

Photo by Patrick T’Kindt

It was an achievement celebrated the world over last week when 8-year-old Sam Baker became the youngest person to ascend the famed 3,000-foot rock wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. But after the dust settled, and nationwide media attention peaked, experts came out to bash the so called “record.”

Sam began the journey on Tuesday, October 25 with his father, Joe Baker, as part of a four-person team to ascend the rock face. On Friday, the team finished the feat, with Sam posting a photo of him and his father at the summit on his Instagram.

When the family announced their intention of helping Sam realize his dream of climbing El Capitan, they outlined the team’s strategy which included one person climbing ahead of the crew and setting the ropes for others to follow. According to the family, Sam would even took on the challenge of climbing ahead and setting some of the ropes.

But according to rock climbing experts and witnesses, that’s not exactly what happened.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the technique used by Sam and Joe Baker used “special hand clamps that allowed them to ascend a rope without touching the rock face, a very different experience than traditional rock climbing.” Witnesses claim the achievement was anything but rock climbing.

“This is a publicity hoax,” climbing expert and “unofficial record-keeper” Tom Evans told the Chronicle.

Evans claimed he never saw Sam or Joe “put hand to rock and physically scale the face.” Instead, he said the Bakers used guides to set the line while the father-son duo “jug up” the rock wall, a term used to describe the ascending technique.

The Baker family did not respond to media requests involving the controversy, likely to protect their young son from such scrutiny. But subsequent social media posts stopped using the word “climb” and instead started claiming Sam had “completed the youngest rope ascent of ElCap.”

What do you think? Should we celebrate this achievement?

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California


  1. Any ascent of El Capitan should be held up as an accomplishment! Not any 8 year old, or 99% of adults, could or would even attempt the arduous climb. I say good for you Sam and Crew!

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