Eight-year-old becomes youngest ever to summit El Capitan – but there's controversy

El Capitan, Yosemite National Park
(Image credit: Getty)

An eight-year-old boy has become the youngest to summit El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. However, despite widespread media coverage celebrating the feat, some climbers say that the technique used by Sam Baker and his father isn't climbing, as there's very little interaction with the rock face.

Baker, his father Joe, and two guides made the ascent together using a technique called jumaring or jugging. Rather than climbing the wall using naturally occurring hand and footholds, a person ascends a  fixed rope positioned by a leader using mechanical devices called jumars.

The team began their ascent on October 25, and reached the summit on October 29. "We made it! And then had a little party with our disco ball," Joe Baker wrote in a Facebook post.

Other climbers have questioned the motives for the attempt, suggesting it was an attempt to gain fame rather than a serious sporting endeavor.

"This is a publicity hoax,” Tom Evans of ElCap Reports told the San Francisco Chronicle. During peak climbing season, Evans stands with his binoculars and monitors climbers on El Capitan, documenting their efforts. "The guides do everything that I’ve seen,” Evans said. “That’s why this is not a climb.”

"This is clearly a vicarious undertaking and for what gain. Anyone who thinks this is OK clearly doesn’t understand climbing ethics, wrote one poster on the UK Climbing forum.

However, some climbers took a more positive view, saying that as long as the youngster enjoyed himself spending quality time with his father, it was harmless and  even commendable.

"I think this is perfectly OK. In fact I think it’s great," wrote another poster, "And as for for what gain?  For the gaining of a really special, and bonding experience that father and son will treasure for the rest of their lives." 

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.