Emily Harrington
Photo credit: Jon Glassberg

Emily Harrington Injured on El Cap, Honnold and Ballinger Help Evacuate

Pro climber Emily Harrington took a ‘bad fall’ on El Cap over the weekend. Fortunately, she had an all-star crew to get her to safety.

Five-time U.S. National Champion climber Emily Harrington posted a bruised and battered selfie yesterday from her Community Regional Medical Center hospital bed.

Harrington revealed to her followers she suffered non-life-threatening injuries after a fall from the towering face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

Harrington said she fell, then “pin balled a bit then somehow hit the rope with my neck.” Thankfully, she was surrounded by some of the most accomplished climbers in the world — including Alex Honnold and Adrian Ballinger.

Honnold famously made waves last year when he became the only person ever to free solo El Cap and starred in what became the Oscar-winning documentary “Free Solo,” which chronicled the epic climb.

Ballinger, a world-renowned mountain guide who’s led famous expeditions on Mount Everest — and is also Harrington’s boyfriend — also posted photos of Harrington at the scene of the accident. According to Ballinger, he found Harrington “crumpled on a ledge after a big fall in below freezing temperatures.”

Ballinger said Honnold kept the 33-year-old Harrington talking while rescue crews rushed to the scene, and that they kept her immobilized because there was “a lot of reasons to suspect spinal injury.”


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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

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Yosemite Search and Rescue arrived within 90 minutes, Ballinger posted, and got Harrington off the wall. And paramedics later cleared her of any spinal injuries, he confirmed.

Adam Ruggiero

Adam Ruggiero is the Editor In Chief of GearJunkie.

Adam has been covering daily news and writing about cycling, camping, hiking, and gear of all kinds for 15+ years. Prior to that, Adam lived in Hawaii and Puerto Rico, at which time he realized he’d never have a “normal job.” His pastimes — farming, bike racing, and fitness — provided a gateway to all manner of physical challenges and recreation outdoors.

Based in Kansas City, MO, Adam tests as much gear as he can get his hands, feet (and dog) into each and every day. As editor in chief, he works to maintain GearJunkie’s voice, style, and commitment to accurate and expert reporting across every category.