Between July 21 and 22 as temperatures pushed 100 degrees on the Yosemite Valley floor, high above the ground, Joe Baker and his son Samuel (age 6) climbed the tip of Lost Arrow Spire, a slender finger of granite extending out from the wall near the top of Yosemite Falls, 2,700 feet above the ground.
As day turned to night, they crawled into their portaledge and prepared to sleep while suspended from the overhanging tower. Then the wind picked up and howled through the notch between the spire and rim, rattling their portable shelter against the wall. Temperatures dropped and the two shivered.
“At night, it was horrendous. Full-on winter conditions,” Baker tells me over FaceTime from his living room in Colorado Springs, CO, with his son peeping over his shoulder. Chewing on a corndog, Sam chimes in, “while we were on it [the portaledge] was lifting and dropping. The camping was freezing.”
Millions of visitors a year gaze up at Lost Arrow Spire, which sits like a golden pencil against the immense wall surrounding it. The 250-foot pillar draws climbers from around the world to climb it, but it’s rare for teams to spend the night there.
Even though Yosemite is currently open, visitation is limited at the moment. Access to the park requires not only obtaining a vehicle permit but also an overnight parking permit. The park is also limiting group sizes to no more than 10. Between his ground team and climbing team, 25 people provided support to Baker and his son.
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Sam’s ascent marks one of the youngest up the Lost Arrow Spire Tip, including Tommy Caldwell, who also did the route at age 6. But getting a record isn’t why Baker arranged the climb for his son. Sam’s inspirations are Selah Schneiter, who climbed the Nose on El Capitan at age 10 and Pearl Johnson, who climbed Triple Direct (which shares the upper third portion of the Nose) at 9. All three climbers used mechanical ascenders to ascend the rope and were secured with backup. (Selah led a few sections on the Nose.)
Were you scared? I ask Sam.
“Um. Yeah,” he replies. “But I’d do it again.”
Baker and his wife Ann spent the last nine months preparing