The climb went well until she attempted a difficult throw in the sun around noon on Wednesday. Her fingers were so smooth with sweat that she slipped, she said, so she rested for 30 minutes and tried again. She slipped again, this time slamming her head against the wall as she rocked the rope. Suddenly, she said, there was “blood everywhere, spurting out of my head.”
She came back from a sudden fall she suffered last year while attempting the same climb, the one that sent her to the hospital. But after checking her vital signs and bandaging her head, she put her hands on the rock again.
“There was a part of me that wanted to give up and the other part of me was like, ‘You owe it to yourself to try again,” she said. “Then I just did one of those attempts where it was an out-of-body experience, like, ‘I can’t believe I’m still holding on, I can’t believe I’m still holding on,’ and then I had finished with the land.
Ms. Harrington, who grew up in Colorado, has been rock climbing since she was 10 years old. She is a five-time American National Sport Climbing Champion and two-time North American Champion. She climbed Mount Everest and Mont Blanc in 2012, and Ama Dablam in 2013.
El Capitan free climbing, she said, requires strength, endurance, technical skills, and physical fitness to withstand a day’s effort.
It is not known how many people in total climbed El Capitan in less than 24 hours, but the American Alpine Club, a climbing organization, estimates that only 15 to 25 climbers made it. The first to do so was Lynn Hill, whose scaling El Cap in 1994, following the nose route, remains one of climbing’s most famous climbs.
El Cap free climbing is still “a thing dominated by men, despite Lynn being the first to do it,” Ms. Harrington said. “I always got so much advice from men, from people telling me how I should do things, how I was doing wrong, but in the end I just decided to do it despite the fact that a lot of people thought that maybe I couldn’t or maybe I didn’t belong.