Climbing the Walls

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    Sam Baker is now the youngest person ever to have climbed El Capitan in California. (Sam Adventure/Facebook)
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    El Capitan is a huge rock wall. (AP)
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    Sam and his dad climb together. (Sam Adventure/Facebook)
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    Sam eats oatmeal. He sits on a platform strapped to the rock wall. (Sam Adventure/Facebook)
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    The Baker family explores the outdoors together. (Sam Adventure/Facebook)
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Sam Adventure Baker lives up to his middle name. In October, Sam achieved a dream with his dad. He became the youngest person to ascend El Capitan, the biggest rock wall in North America.

El Capitan is in California’s Yosemite National Park. It towers at 3,000 feet high. Sam and his dad began the ascent with two guides on October 25. They reached the top on October 28.

Sam and his family live in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His parents, Joe and Ann Baker, both enjoy climbing and regularly take their three sons on outdoor adventures. Mr. Baker says they “experience God most vividly outdoors.”

Romans 1:20 teaches that God’s character and power are on display in His creation. Trees swaying in the wind, birds in flight, and starry nights all point to His careful design. (So do panoramic views on rock climbs—and even the rocks themselves.)

Planning a four-day climb is no easy task. Sam began training 18 months beforehand. He scaled Moonlight Buttress in Utah’s Zion National Park as a test run. The route is considered one of the longest and hardest sandstone climbs in the world.

At night on El Capitan, the Bakers used a platform clipped into the side of the wall. Harnesses kept them strapped in while they nestled down in sleeping bags.

Mr. Baker described the climb on Facebook: “Just imagine walking for a mile of sidewalk on your fingers,” but straight up.

That wording might be a bit misleading. The Bakers didn’t have to look for just the right holds on the wall to advance. They used a climbing technique called “jugging,” or rope ascent. Handheld gripping devices slide up a fixed rope. A guide above the Bakers placed the ropes securely. This method allows climbers to shimmy up without exhausting their fingers on tiny rock holds. (See Yosemite Climbing Record.)

Some seasoned climbers argue people should use natural holds on the wall to be classified as true climbers. They do not consider jugging up El Capitan to be a legitimate climb.

Charley Mace is a famous climber who has guided two ascents of Mount Everest. He defended Sam: “He’s the youngest kid to have gotten up El Cap. A lot of people jug fixed lines. . . . the kid is doing stuff on the wall.”

Sam definitely had to work hard to reach his goal. He says his favorite parts about the trip include snuggling with his dad at night and eating instant lasagna together.

Why? It takes a lot of commitment to accomplish worthwhile goals. Sam and his dad tackled one that let them connect with each other and enjoy God’s beautiful world.