Dad who claimed son, 8, climbed 3,000 ft El Capitan slammed as 'hoax' by expert climbers

Joe Baker has been promoting his ambitions for his son Sam to become the youngest climber of Yosemite's El Capitan for at least the past 12 months

Dad who claimed son, 8, climbed 3,000 ft El Capitan slammed as 'hoax' by expert climbers
Joe Baker (L) claims his 8-year-old son Sam achieved the record-breaking climb of Yosemite's 3,000-foot El Capitan (@wildlovestory/Instagram)
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CALIFORNIA: A father's claims that his eight-year-old son became the youngest person to ever scale Yosemite's 3,000-foot El Capitan face have been widely criticized by experienced rock climbers. Joe Baker has come under fire for allegedly arranging a "publicity hoax" in order to draw media attention to his son Sam's climb and mislead the general public about the significance of the "record-breaking" feat. 

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Sam, a second-grader from Colorado, and his father successfully scaled El Capitan on Saturday, October 29, prompting a barrage of headlines hailing the climb as "historic" and praising Sam for being the youngest person to do so. But many in the climbing world were puzzled at the headlines, noting that Sam did not actually climb the rock face in the strictest sense, but rather ascended it via previously rigged ropes with the use of a scaling tool called an ascender, Daily Mail reported.

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Even though Baker claimed in a post that Sam had "completed the youngest rope ascent of ElCap", critics claimed that the father had only made that claim after months of praising his son in front of the media and portraying him as a climbing prodigy who would be scaling the rock face that even the most experienced climbers find challenging. Also criticized were Baker's apparent use of guides who weren't authorized by Yosemite National Park and the lack of transparency over the use of the funds he raised in the run-up to the climb. 

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Baker has been promoting his ambitions for his son to become the youngest climber of El Capitan for at least the past 12 months. The pair participated in many interviews as well as various news features on local and national media. In a promotional video on his website promoting the climb, Baker said of his son, "You don't get on El Cap unless you are an expert in the sport."

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Numerous videos of Sam, who the family claims has been climbing since he could walk, demonstrate his talent as a young climber, but detractors claimed Baker's portrayal of their attempt to scale El Capitan was not totally accurate.

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Tom Evans, a retired teacher who has spent 28 years camping out at the base of El Capitan with a telescopic lens and recording the arrivals and departures of climbers on the wall, declared, "This is a publicity hoax." Evans, 78, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he observed the Bakers during their four-day climb and that he never saw them physically attempt to scale the wall or touch the rock. 

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Instead, the retired teacher observed the duo "jug up," a technique whereby climbers wriggle up rope lines using a mechanical tool. The Bakers were juggling on ropes that had been laid out for them by a climbing team that had gone ahead and brought the majority of their supplies. "The guides do everything that I've seen. That's why this is not a climb."

Evans claimed that the evening before they began their climb, he approached Baker at a nearby restaurant. He told Chronicle, "The whole media presentation needs to stop. I know there's no way your son suggested getting this record. This is about you." To which Baker said, "It's not about the record, it's about spending time with my son." "I said, 'Why all the publicity then?'" Evans claimed that the Bakers appeared to be exploiting the popularity of El Capitan for personal gain. "I'm very annoyed by this because climbing El Capitan puts you in an elite group of climbers," he said. "[The Bakers] are blatantly stealing that reputation for their own use," he stated.

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Tommy Caldwell, a well-known climber of El Capitan, told the Chronicle that the Bakers' thirst for media attention made him wary of them. He said, "I find it slightly cringeworthy."

Joe Baker is a travel enthusiast and founder of a consultant agency 'Superhero Sidekick'. He is married to Ann Baker since 2011. He wrote on his Facebook, "One of my mentors once told me that 'to really know someone you must know their heart, and to know their heart you must know what they love." He detailed in his bio saying he likes giant granite mountain peaks that disappear into the sky, snowboarding Alaskan powder, running on a deserted beach. He wrote, "I love the feeling that I get when I worked all day to climb a mountain and finally I am at the summit of it."

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