Sam Baker sets a new record on El Capitan

An eight year old boy became the youngest person to ascend El Capitan in Yosemite on October 28, 2022. Sam Baker achieved the feat after 18 months of training, including a rope ascent of Moonlight Buttress in Zion.

“What an amazing week! I’m so proud of Sam,” his father Joe Baker wrote in a Facebook post. “He completed the youngest rope ascent of El Cap!”

The duo spent four days on the rock as part of a four-person team. Guides set ropes for the Bakers to follow. Sam didn’t scale the actual rock features during the ascent, rather he climbed ropes that were set by professional guides. This caused some controversy among climbers on social media. Patagonia athlete, Tommy Caldwell asked facetiously, “If I put my one year old in a haul bag and pull him up El Cap, does my son become the record holder?”

Despite this criticism from within the climbing community, Sam Baker’s mode of ascent is considered legitimate by others who use the precedent set by Mark Wellman, Dierdre Wolownick, and others. While it is much easier to climb preset ropes than the actual rock face, a guided rope ascent is still considered a challenging accomplishment.

The question might be, is it appropriate for other families/children to now go out to try to break this recent record? Is that what climbing El Capitan is really about?