At just 10 years old, Selah Schneider is the youngest person to climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. She says she can’t remember a time in her life when she wasn’t climbing.
“I love climbing because of all the work that goes into it,” Schneiter told In The Know. “When you’re working on something really hard, and you’re excited about it, you can just feel that electricity in the air.”
El Capitan is an iconic granite rock formation that dominates the west end of Yosemite Valley. According to Yosemite’s website, El Capitan is more than 3,000 feet tall, which makes it 2.5 times as tall as the Empire State Building and more than three times as high as the Eiffel Tower. It’s considered one of the world’s ultimate challenges for climbers.
“The Nose” is the classic route most climbers take to reach the top of El Capitan, and it’s often referred to as “the best rock climb in the world.”
“‘The Nose’ has always kind of been a climb that I’ve wanted to do, it’s always been in the back of my mind,” Schneiter said. “But I wasn’t quite sure if I could actually do it.”
Schneiter knew she needed to prepare both mentally and physically. She wanted to work on getting stronger, and recognizing that it could take several days to reach the top, also had to prepare for all the work ahead of her.
Her parents, who are both experienced climbers, did not seem fazed by her ambitious climb — even though she was only 10 years old.
“She always really loved it,” Joy Schneiter, Selah’s mom, told In The Know. “She never was afraid, she always wanted to try, and so we encouraged that.”
Mike Schneiter, the girl’s father, even accompanied his daughter on her record-breaking climb.
“Climbing El Cap with my dad, it really improved our relationship,” the 10-year-old said. “Having him there, not only at the base of El Cap, but at the base of every climb, he encourages me.”
It took Schneiter five days to reach the top of El Capitan, and her father filmed the moment she finished. She sat down and started to cry joyfully, seemingly overwhelmed by the fact that she was really sitting atop the rock.
“I was really happy, but I was also kind of sad because you only get to do something your first time once,” she said. “There’s a first time for everything, but there’s only one first time for everything.”
Her parents assumed Schneiter would be the youngest girl to ever climb El Capitan, and were surprised to find out she was the youngest person to do it overall. But setting that record was never on Schneiter’s mind while she was accomplishing the incredible feat.
“I think just being in the moment is not thinking about how to get to the top, it’s not thinking about how to get that next move, it’s thinking about what to do now, as you’re in this moment,” she said.
Watch the full episode of In The Know: Next Gen to learn more about Selah Schneiter’s inspiring accomplishment.
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