Emily Harrington’s El Cap Rescue
While trying to climb Golden Gate (VI 5.13) on El Capitan, Yosemite, in a single day on Sunday, Emily Harrington took a huge fall on a 5.10c on the Freeblast (which makes up the lower portion of the route).By Rock and Ice | November 27th, 2019
Harrington and Alex Honnold, her partner for her attempt to climb Golden Gate in a day, were simul-climbing the beginning pitches of the route on Sunday when Harrington slipped.
Honnold told Outside Online that Harrington was 150 above him when she took the fall. “I was sitting on the ground tying my shoes, getting ready to start simul-climbing,” Honnold told author Grayson Schaffer. “Tons of slack just pools on the ground, which is consistent with huge falls.” Honnold continued, “The rope is falling at the same speed as the climber. It’s just physics.”
Harrington lost consciousness and was extremely banged up with what Honnold, as well as Jon Glassberg—who was on the wall filming the attempt—were concerned could be life-threatening injuries.
View this post on Instagram
Most important to this insty – @emilyaharrington is going to be ok! ❤️🙏 Two mornings ago was the scene we all dread. The most important person in my world crumpled on a ledge after a big fall in below freezing temperatures with real injuries and a lot of reasons to suspect spinal injury. But looking back it was also the best case scenario of the worst case scenario – @alexhonnold with Em calmly maintaining spinal immobilization on the wall, getting things ready for an evac, and telling stories and keeping her talking throughout. Clear and consistent comms and planning by @jonglassberg and @sannimccandless from the ground. @tarakerzhner keeping me calm as we ran from the other side of the mountain and up the wall to be first on scene to get Em warm and stabilized. YOSAR (Yosemite Search and Rescue) on scene within 90 minutes with a big crew and the necessary equipment to get her off the wall and to the road. Competent paramedics and Trauma 1 Center docs to give the good drugs and eventually to clear Em of spinal injury despite some gnarly wounds. The outpouring of help and support from friends at home and in Yosemite to clean up our chaos from plans very rapidly changed. And finally, Em herself and her warrior mentality. She dealt with the pain, helped where she could, and stayed positive throughout. It’s gonna take a bit of time, but Em and her blood stained 🦖 earrings and new neck tattoo will be back in the vertical world soon. // Photos: 2,5 @tarakerzhner / 4 @emilyaharrington / 1,3,6,7 AB
Adrian Ballinger, Harrington’s boyfriend, was at the two-thirds of the way up the route waiting for her to support her to the top, rappelled down to help Honnold and Glassberg, as they all waited for Yosemite Search and Rescue to arrive.
Grayson Schaffer summed up the extent of Harrington’s injuries as follows: “At the hospital, her injuries proved to be gruesome but largely superficial. Most shockingly, Harrington had somehow managed to get her neck caught in the rope during the fall and was left with a long bruise that made it look like she’d been strangled. Ultimately she was able to walk out of the hospital a day later.”
Harrington is a highly accomplished El Capitan climber. In 2015, she freed Golden Gate in a six-day push.