As the top of Yosemite’s 2,425-foot El Capitan climbs with less than 2,100 feet left, hundreds of eager climbers make their way up and down the rock formation with fingers-nail sharpies aimed at the face.
In March 2015, while holding on for dear life, 72-year-old Annette M. Scaglione crossed the dreaded Yosemite step to complete the harrowing climb to the summit of the challenging route known as “Squaw” a few hours ahead of schedule. Scaglione, a Wisconsin resident who spent three months training and prepared for the climb for nearly three months, has shared her story in a new book titled “Falling and Falling: 150 Motives that Forced Me to Cross El Capitan,” published by Hachette Book Group.
“Three months of my life was spent planning, training, practicing,” Scaglione told USA Today on Monday. “This is my goal: to always push myself to the next level.”
Scaglione, a former travel writer, was alone on the cliffs, facing an impossible climb, when she struck, perhaps mortally, at a rock. “I just thought, ‘I don’t want to die here,’ ” she said, according to USA Today.
The legend of El Capitan, a massive granite rock in Yosemite National Park near the California-Nevada border, has for decades puzzled climbers who have tried to conquer it. Many consider it the best of several routes, the park’s chief spokesperson Scott Gediman told The Washington Post in 2015. When even the most experienced of climbers attempt the deadly first section, known as the “killer wall,” their hands and feet become useless.
For those brave enough to reach the plateau, it’s a difficult endeavor. Climbers must first crawl across a dark, narrow stairway and hit the wall with a vertical grip, according to USA Today. Then, they must climb what’s known as the “Squaw,” a narrow, steep path that has been nicknamed “Squaw-Jump.”
The only lift from one platform to another is a boulder that’s perched at a 90-degree angle, according to The Washington Post. The route could be completed in about a half-hour. Scaglione, however, crossed just two hours into her five-day journey.
She could have kept climbing after she finished, but she needed a break. So, she crossed the legendary wall and dived back down the cliff, USA Today reported. But she wasn’t done.
Instead, she returned to Yosemite and completed the “Bear Claw” step, a difficult and spectacular 1,850-foot climb that culminates on the final 2,080-foot of El Capitan.
Scaglione made her trip all while maintaining a regular routine. She kept her job, began exercising and scheduled travel.
She has two words for anyone contemplating climbing El Capitan.
“Yes, it was hard,” she told USA Today. “Some would say it was a heroic act.”