8-Year-Old Climbs El Capitan With His Dad Mainly For Candy And Hugs

As it happens6:548-Year-Old Climbs El Capitan With His Dad Mainly For Candy And Hugs

In some ways, eight-year-old Sam Baker had a fairly ordinary night, snuggling up to his dad and eating candy as they watched The Lion King.

Except that, unlike most kids his age, he did it all on a narrow rocky ledge about 300 meters above the ground, overlooking California’s Yosemite Valley.

« He was really cuddly last night, » Sam’s dad Joe Baker said. As it happens the host Nil Köksal. « There wasn’t much room. »

The father-son duo are climbing El Capitan, a 3,000-foot-tall rock formation in Yosemite National Park that’s catnip for thrill-seeking adventurers. If they succeed, Sam will be the youngest person known to have reached the top.

This is where Sam and his dad spent Tuesday night watching The Lion King and falling asleep. (Submitted by Joe Baker)

They began the climb on Tuesday and spoke to CBC as they prepared for their second day of climbing. Sam said Day 1 was both « amazing » and « pretty easy » as he stuffed Sour Patch Kids into his mouth.

« We eat a lot of sweets, » her father said. « It keeps everyone motivated. »

Her middle name is Adventure

Baker has wanted to climb El Capitan with his son since he first heard about Selah Schneiter, a 10-year-old girl who made the climb with her father in 2019. (Selah’s record has since been supplanted by Pearl Jonson, nine years old.)

« When I saw this…I couldn’t even sleep, I was so blown away by the amount of adventure and friendship they shared, » Baker said. « And I just said, wow, I’d like to do this with one of my boys when they’re ready – and Sam is ready. »

Sam was practically born ready. His middle name is literally Adventure, and he’s been climbing since he was little.

According to the family website which chronicles Sam’s adventures, he climbed the Second Flatiron in Boulder, Colo.when he was just four years old, and completed Lost Arrow Spire, a climb that begins 763 meters above Yosemite Valley, when he was six years old.

At age eight, his dad says he’s already « one of the strongest climbers in Colorado. »

« At the rock gym, people stop and stare at him, and he loves it. And then he also loves racing people at the rock gym, and he bets them a dollar that he can beat him – and then he always beats them, » Boulanger said.

“One time I made $10 on that,” Sam said.

« Our local gym has actually gotten pretty bad about it, so they won’t let him do it anymore, » his dad said.

« They kicked us out, » Sam said.

« They kicked him out for about a week, » his father confirmed.

Sweet snacks and pasta dinners

Baker says there are two aspects to being ready for El Capitan. The first is physical climbing strength, which he says Sam has in spades.

« And then the hardest part is the mental preparation, » Baker said.

« There was a series of mountains that we had to do to really help him, psychologically, to be able to get to the exhibition – because, you know, you’re above eternity here all the time. I mean, you’re hanging from your fingers or your anchors every day, all day. »

But while Sam is climbing, his father is always nearby.

« He’s always a few feet away from me where I can really be there, like, you know, emotional support – give him a hug, talk to him. You know, I have a backpack. I can throw a group- Help him if he has a scratch. I get up and put his gloves on if he needs them, » he said.

A man and a little boy are smiling with their mouths wide open. They are both wearing puffy jackets, and behind them, climbing gear hangs on a wall.
Sam and Baker on Tuesday before beginning their climb of El Capitan in California. (wild story/Instagram)

The other thing that keeps Sam going, Baker said, is food.

As the couple climbs, they gobble up candy and sweet snacks. Sam’s favorite is Honey Buns, a pre-packaged pastry covered in frosting.

Baker says the sugar rush keeps Sam going during the day, but it also helps him crash at night as they camp out in precarious locations.

“Our next campsite is actually fully suspended, so it’s a bed that we hang on the side of the wall that we’re going to sleep on,” he said.

While the snacks are sweet, the dinners are hearty. Tuesday they had lasagna. When they complete Wednesday’s climb, they plan to feast on macaroni and cheese.

« We are best friends here »

Of course, what goes in must come out.

« So you have poop bags, » little Sam explained. « And the poop bag, you poop in it. »

When asked what they do with the poop bags when they’re done, the eight-year-old said, « We throw them off the wall! »

« No, we don’t. No, we don’t. It was a joke, » her father quickly interjected. « That would be a poo water balloon. Not cool. No, we wear them. They’re super disgusting. »

The Day 1 climb, Baker says, was a “piece of cake.” But they still have at least a few days of climbing ahead of them. And the higher they climb, the more vertical the ascent.

« It’s just gonna get bigger and harder from here, » Baker said. « But Sam has it, I think. »

At the end of the day, however, young Sam isn’t here for the record or the glory – or even the snacks. He just likes to climb with his dad all day and then fall asleep together at night watching movies on his phone.

« We’re best friends here, » Baker said.


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