On June 12, after five days of intensive rock climbing and four nights sleeping on a shelf in the sky, 10-year-old Selah Schneiter became the youngest person to summit El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Now with her feet safely on the ground, Selah told Visit California, “I feel good! It’s all very crazy.”
The “crazy” part, however, may be the media whirlwind following her mind-bending feat rather than the climb itself. For the Glenwood Springs, Colo., native, climbing has always been in her blood. “I started climbing as soon as I could crawl,” she says. “I would crawl around on boulders, and when I started walking, I got into a full-body harness.”
The iconic El Cap holds a special place in the heart of the Schneiter family: Selah's parents, Joy and Mike, climbed the route with a friend, Mark Regier, just a few days after they first met. The couple even shared their first kiss when they reached the top.
”We were so innocent. It was just a peck,” Joy laughs. Once back to Yosemite Village, Joy called her mom from a pay phone to tell her that she had met the man she wanted to marry.
Yosemite remains central to Schneiter family lore, and 15 years after that first peck, 10-year-old Selah decided she wanted to add another chapter. In preparation for the climb she trained both mentally and physically, working on her confidence, strength, and skills. “I had to ask myself, ‘Am I actually ready for this or do I just want to do it?’’ she explains.
How did she know if she was up to the task? “I didn’t! You never really know until you try.”
As reported by Outside, the Nose requires “31 pitches of free and aid climbing,” an extreme test for adult climbers who have been training for decades. By making it up the 3,000-foot route, Selah became the youngest person ever to do so. The previous record was set by 11-year-old Scott Corey in 2001.
Selah’s climbing partners included her dad, Mike, the owner of Glenwood Climbing Guides, and Mark Reiger, the same friend who joined Selah’s parents on their very first ascent. While Selah says there were some difficult and scary moments, the wall “looks a lot bigger from the ground than it does when you’re on it."
Selah’s favorite part of the adventure was, of course, the summit. “It was really amazing, really emotional, really overwhelming, and I was also kind of sad it was over,” she says. With El Cap under her belt, the career for this climbing wunderkind is just beginning, but no more epic peaks are part of her immediate plans.
“I just want to keep climbing,” Selah says.
Joy puts her daughter's accomplishment in perfect perspective: “I’m honestly just really, really proud of her—she had the personal drive, ambition, and grit to make this happen.”