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10-year-old girl climbs Yosemite’s El Capitan

SAN FRANCISCO — A 10-year-old Colorado girl scaled Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan and may have become the youngest person to climb one of the most celebrated and challenging peaks in the world.

Selah Schneiter of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, completed the 3,000-foot (910 meters) climb of the vertical rock formation with the help of her father, Mike Schneiter, and family friend, Mark Regier.

The trio took five days to climb the Nose — the best known route — and reached the summit on June 12, Mike Schneiter said. It typically takes accomplished climbers four or five days to complete.

Reaching the top “was really overwhelming and emotional,” Selah said in a telephone interview from New York City, where she spent Wednesday doing media interviews.

“I was also kind of sad because it was over,” she added.

Scott Cory climbed the Nose twice in 2001, when he was 11. That same year 13-year-old Tori Allen also climbed it, according to Outside Magazine.

Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman said the park doesn’t keep such records.

The oldest of four children, Selah has been climbing since she can remember and had been asking her parents for years to climb El Capitan. For nine months, she prepared physically and mentally to make sure she was ready to do it, she said.

Climbers jam hands and feet into finger- and fist-width cracks to inch their way up the vertical wall. Sometimes there is little more to grasp or perch on than a sliver the width of a few coins.

Other cracks abruptly end in a smooth sea of granite, forcing climbers to swing left or right to find the next hand or foothold.

“Our big motto was ‘How do you eat an elephant?’ Small bites,” said Selah, who recently finished fourth grade. “One pitch at a time … one move at a time … one day at a time.”

Selah said the only thing she feared was the possibility of a big storm because it would mean “having to go down.”

The Schneiters are a family of climbers. Mike and his wife, Joy, fell in love 15 years ago while scaling El Capitan. They vacation in places where there is rock climbing and have a climbing wall in their garage, often the first spot their children go after school.

Mike Schneiter, a climbing guide and part-time high school teacher, said seeing his daughter complete her dream was amazing.

“I was so proud of her. It was a combination of a lot of feelings because it was a project that had been formed in our minds for a few years,” he said.

Joy Schneiter stayed home with their three other children and received daily updates about progress in Yosemite.

She knew her husband would turn back if there were any safety concerns. Still, as an experience climber, she said she understands the grit and determination it takes to climb the massive granite slab and worried about Selah’s endurance.

“I was worried she would wear out,” Joy Schneiter said. “But by day four I knew they would finish. I’m just really proud and ecstatic.”

To celebrate her feat, Selah wanted to jump in a nearby river to cool off and go get pizza, her father said.

“We got pizza and ice cream — chocolate with caramel sauce and cherries,” she said.

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