Yosemite

This 10-year-old is the youngest to climb El Capitan’s Nose. She says she’s ‘just a normal kid’

Original El Capitan climber talks about the historic feat

It was 1958 when George Whitmore joined a team led by pioneering rock climber Warren Harding. The climbers were the first to scale Yosemite Valley's monolithic El Capitan.
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It was 1958 when George Whitmore joined a team led by pioneering rock climber Warren Harding. The climbers were the first to scale Yosemite Valley's monolithic El Capitan.

Climbing El Capitan’s challenging and iconic Nose route in Yosemite National Park this week was a labor of love for 10-year-old Selah Schneiter in more than one way.

Her parents, Mike and Joy Schneiter, fell in love on this 3,000-plus-foot granite monolith.

Mike Schneiter called it a “full-circle thing” Friday while driving home to Colorado with his daughter.

“El Cap just feels like part of our family story,” he said.

The father-daughter team, accompanied by friend Mark Regier, made it to the top of El Capitan Wednesday evening after four and a half days of big wall climbing.

Selah said she first dreamed of climbing El Capitan when she was 6 or 7. She first touched a boulder when she was 3 days old and wore her first rock climbing harness shortly after she learned to walk. Her dad works as a climbing guide in Colorado.

Selah is humble about her El Capitan accomplishment.

“I’m not necessarily a special kid or anything like that,” she said. “I’m just a normal kid. There’s nothing different. I go to a normal school. I live in a normal neighborhood.”

Selah said fulfilling her El Capitan dream was a moving, inspiring, incredible experience.

Her dad was “blown away” by her attitude and ability.

“She was just so upbeat, positive, strong, helpful – being awesome,” Mike Schneiter said. “She just kept plugging away.”

The climb was tough.

“I don’t think there was necessarily a hardest time,” Selah said. “It was all hard. There were a few times where I would be sore and tired and sunburned, and that would kind of get me going a little bonkers. But overall, it was just great to be up there away from the world.”

El Capitan and its difficult Nose route, which runs up the center of the rock’s face, is considered one of the world’s harder big wall climbs and has attracted the best climbers since it was first scaled in 1958.

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Selah Schneiter on a portaledge on the side of Yosemite’s El Capitan during her June 2019 climb of the Nose route. Special to The Bee



Selah celebrated her climb with pizza at Half Dome Village.

She climbed the Nose using a combination of aid and free climbing, utilizing special equipment and ropes for protection.

Selah’s feat captured national attention. Outdoor Magazine called her the youngest documented person to climb the Nose.

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Selah Schneiter, 10, became the youngest recorded person to climb El Capitan’s Nose route in Yosemite National Park in June 2019. Special to The Bee



Ken Yager, president of the Yosemite Climbing Association, told The Bee he also couldn’t think of anyone younger who has done it.

Selah said a lot of the preparation for the climb was mental.

She shared this advice for other young climbers dreaming of big walls: “It doesn’t take necessarily a super special person to do something like that. You have to put your mind to it. You have to think about it.”

Selah’s mom, who was home with Selah’s three younger siblings, is super proud of her eldest child’s accomplishment.

“She worked really hard for this,” Joy Schneiter said. “She trained a lot.”

Selah said her parents’ El Capitan love story was part of her inspiration.

“The family history behind it really made me want to have this experience,” Selah said, “and feel the way that my mom and my dad felt when they were up there together.”

Carmen George: 559-441-6386, @CarmenGeorge

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Carmen George is a features and news reporter for The Fresno Bee. Her stories have been recognized with Best of the West, George F. Gruner, and McClatchy President’s awards, and nine first or second place awards from the California News Publishers Association. She has a passion for sharing people’s stories to highlight issues and promote greater understanding.

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