A 9-Year-Old Climbed El Capitan


More than 4 days and 3 nights in mid-September, Pearl Johnson, age 9, climbed the Triple Direct route on El Capitan, earning her the title as the youngest individual to ascend the three,000-foot formation. Pearl climbed with her mother, Janet, and a loved ones pal, Nick Sullens, of Yosemite Search and Rescue. Pearl’s dad, Philip, a law enforcement ranger in the park, met them at the major. 

“Someone asked me if I was nervous, and I stated ‘No,’” Janet stated right after. “I knew I was comfy up there. I’ve climbed a lot with Pearl. I knew what she was capable of.”

Pearl, nevertheless, was nervous, according to Sullens. “A lot of time was spent overcoming her worry,” Sullens stated. “I was impressed with her wanting to maintain going. If it had been me at nine, I would have wanted to be out of there. Often she would say, ‘I want this to be more than, this is seriously scary.’ I would provide to bail and be down in two hours, and she would say she wanted to be there. She had a want to pursue the purpose. She wanted to climb that mountain.”

Tiny girls have been getting a banner year in Yosemite this season. In June, 10-year-old Selah Schneiter climbed the Nose on El Capitan with her father Mike and his pal Mark Regier, creating her the then-youngest individual in the globe to climb the granite monolith. The story went viral, and Selah appeared on ESPN, The Right now Show and ABC News. 

Pearl also wanted to climb The Nose, but it was crowded, so they switched to the much less-preferred but equally extended Triple Direct route, which parallels the Nose just before joining it for the upper third of the climb. As opposed to Selah, Pearl did not lead or clean any of the pitches on the route. She utilized ascenders to climb the static rope that the group utilized to haul their gear. 

el capitan
(Photo: Janet Johnson)

Janet and Philip, each longtime Yosemite locals, have decades of climbing encounter below their belts. And so Pearl’s earliest memories are of climbing, which she picked up when she discovered to stroll. Her biggest climbs just before El Cap incorporate Cathedral Peak in Tuolumne Meadows at age six, the 15-pitch Royal Arches route at age 7, and Snake Dike on Half Dome at age eight. 

Pearl has seen Totally free Solo, and knows Alex Honnold, who stayed subsequent door to the Johnsons during filming. 

“One of my favourite components of Totally free Solo was when Alex encountered the guys in the pink bunny suits,” Pearl stated. “I climbed it in tights covered with cats and donuts.” 

Pearl summited El Cap on September 16, in the midst of a hailstorm and plummeting temperatures. “I ran to the huge juniper tree for cover though Nick and my mom had been hauling up the bags a single at a time,” she stated. “The major was scary. We had been in a cloud, and my fingers had been purple.”

The hail turned to rain, soaking the group. But Pearl’s dad was building a fire. She knew that quickly she would be comfy again—the be concerned would pass, just as it had on the wall.  

Lead Photo: Janet Johnson


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