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.
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.
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