Emily Harrington becomes the fourth woman to free-climb El Capitan in under 24 hours

By Lauren M. Johnson, CNN

    (CNN) -- Emily Harrington, 34, is the fourth woman to ever free climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park and the first to do so using the Golden Gate route.

She scaled the massive 3,000-foot granite face on Wednesday as the nation focused on developments in the presidential election.

"It's pretty impressive what she did," said Ken Yager, president of the Yosemite Climbing Association Museum.

But he pointed out that she isn't the first to free climb the iconic rock.

Harrington is the first woman for this route, but three other women came before her, including Lynn Hill, who was the first ever to free climb El Capitan in 24 hours in 1992, Yager said.

Climbers Beth Rodden and Steph Davis also completed the challenge.

Only three people -- all men -- had ever free-climbed the Golden Gate route on El Capitan in Yosemite National Park in under 24 hours, and now Harrington is the fourth.

Harrington became the first woman ever to complete the task in less than a day, scaling El Capitan in 21 hours and 13 minutes.

"I never believed I could actually free climb El Cap in a day when I first set the goal for myself," she said in an Instagram post.

"It didn't seem like a realistic objective for me," she said. "I didn't have the skills, fitness, or risk profile to move so quickly over such a large piece of stone. But I chose it exactly for that reason. Impossible dreams challenge us to rise above who we are now to see if we can become better versions of ourselves."

Harrington said she started climbing at 1:34 am on November 4. She shared some of the challenges she faced, including a slip that left her with a gash on her forehead. She later admitted it "almost took (her) resolve."

"I pulled on again," she said, "part of me not really wanting to stay on the wall, the other part gathering courage and flow. I kept thinking 'why am I still hanging on?'"

She successfully climbed past the spot where she failed a year before, when a nasty fall stopped her ascent.

"I cried at the belay - it could happen this time....The final 5 pitches felt scary in my current state but I pulled over the final lip at 10:30pm in disbelief," she said.

"There's a lot more to say but mostly I wanted to express my gratitude for the love and support from friends, family, and strangers. I feel the love so intensely right now. Thank you all," Harrington said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story and headline incorrectly described Emily Harrington's achievement. She is the fourth woman to ever free climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park and the first to do so using the Golden Gate route.

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