Experienced rock climbers are criticizing a father’s claims that his eight-year-old son has become the youngest person ever to scale Yosemite’s 3,000-foot El Capitan wall.
Critics have accused Joe Baker of “publicity rigging” surrounding the climb, saying he drew media attention to his son Sam’s climb while misleading the public about the nature of the “record-breaking” achievement.
Himself, a second-grader in Coloradoand his father on Saturday completed the ascent of El Capitan to a a chorus of headlines calling the climb a “historic” eventand hailing Sam as the youngest man ever to climb the dreaded peak.
But many in the climbing community raised eyebrows when they saw the headlines, noting that Sam wasn’t quite climbing the rock in the strictest sense, but was instead scaling it on pre-fixed ropes using a scaling device called an ascender.
Although Baker wrote that Sam “completed the youngest ever rope ascent of El Cap” on Saturday, critics said the father made the distinction only after months of media casting his son as a climbing prodigy. which will climb a rock that gives even the most hardened climbers pause.
Critics also said that Baker appeared to hire guides who were not authorized by Yosemite National Park, and that it was unclear where the money he raised while preparing for the climb actually went.
Baker did not respond to DailyMail.com’s requests for comment.
Critics have accused Joe Baker of orchestrating a “publicity hoax” around the climb, saying he drew media attention to his son Sam’s climb while misleading the public about the nature of the “record-breaking” achievement
“It’s a publicity stunt,” said Tom Evans, a retired teacher who has stationed himself at the foot of El Capitan with a telephoto lens for 28 years, documenting the comings and goings of climbers on the rock.
For at least the last year, Baker has been announcing his plans for his son to become the youngest person to climb El Capitan.
The duo has been featured in countless news segments on local and national television and has appeared in numerous interviews.
“You don’t climb El Cap unless you’re an expert in the sport,” Baker said of his son in a promotional video on his website promoting the climb.
“That’s what we’re developing, a young man who is an expert in the sport. He can really do everything that great climbers can do,” he said.
While countless clips show that Sam, who the family says has been climbing since he could walk, is undoubtedly a talented young climber, critics said Baker’s characterization of their mission to climb El Capitan was not completely honest.
“It’s a publicity stunt,” said Tom Evans, a retired teacher who has stationed himself at the base of El Capitan with a telephoto lens for 28 years, documenting the comings and goings of climbers on the rock.
While countless clips show Sam – who the family says has been climbing since he could walk – an undeniably talented young climber, critics said Baker’s characterization of their mission to climb El Capitan was not completely honest
78-year-old Evans said San Francisco Chronicle that he watched the Bakers during their four days of climbing and never once saw them touch the rock or attempt to physically climb the wall.
Instead, he saw the pair “ascend,” which is a process in which climbers use a mechanical device to pull up rope lines. The lines along which the Bakers advanced had been laid out for them by a team of mountaineers who had gone ahead and carried most of their supplies.
“The guides do everything I’ve seen,” Evan said. “That’s why it’s not a lift.”
Evans said he ran into Baker at a local restaurant the night before they started the climb.
“The whole media presentation should be stopped. I know your son in no way offered to get this record. It’s about you,” Evans reminded the Chronicle. “He said, ‘It’s not about the record, it’s about spending time with my son.’ I said, “Then why all the publicity?”
Sam and his father Joe Baker on the face of El Capitan while climbing. They completed the climb on Saturday
Sam Baker can be seen climbing El Capitan using a clamp, a mechanical device that allows climbers to lift ropes.
Evans said the Bakers appear to be cashing in on El Capitan’s reputation for their own gain.
“It really annoys me because climbing El Capitan puts you in an elite group of climbers,” he said. ‘[The Bakers] brazenly stealing that reputation for their own use.”
Tommy Caldwell, a famous El Capitan scaler, told the Chronicle that he was skeptical of the Bakers because of their desire for media attention.
“I think it’s a bit terrifying,” he said of their many television appearances.
He also thought their claim to the world record was dubious.
“Theoretically, I could have put (my son) in the bag when he was 1 and put him up there” to get the record, Caldwell said.