An experienced and avid climber escaped serious injury Monday after she fell and “pinballed” during her ascent of El Capitan, the Yosemite National Park rock formation she has described as “a big scary hairless cat.”

“I had an accident yesterday on El Cap,” Emily Harrington, a 33-year-old climber and skier from Squaw Valley, Calif., wrote in the characteristic understatement of an adventurer. “I’m banged up but gonna be ok thankfully. Not much to say except I took a bad fall and pinballed a bit then somehow hit the rope w my neck.”

Harrington wrote that her boyfriend, climber Adrian Ballinger, and Alex Honnold, whose obsession with becoming the first to climb El Capitan without a rope was depicted in the Oscar-winning documentary “Free Solo,” were among those who were “there to get me out and help me through” along with Yosemite Search and Rescue (YOSAR).

In photos from her bed at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, Calif., she gamely made a peace sign as she faced the camera. The second image, of the injury she sustained when the rope “somehow” hit her neck, is more harrowing.

A five-time U.S. sport climbing champion, Harrington made a successful free climb of El Capitan’s difficult Golden Gate route, with Ballinger supporting her, in 2015. She has been attempting to free climb from the base of Golden Gate to the summit in a single day, according to She has previously climbed Mount Everest, Ama Dablam in Nepal and Cho Oyu on the China-Nepal border.

“Progress that feels like climbing an offwidth [a crevice that is larger than a fist but not large enough to allow a full body inside] … is still progress nonetheless,” Harrington wrote of an attempt up the route in early November. “It’s been slow and steady (and still a bit bloody) over here. El Cap is still like a big scary hairless cat, but I’m starting to appreciate its awkward demeanor a bit more than usual these days (finally).”

In 2015, she and Ballinger reached the summit; she told Rock and Ice that year that “the entire experience was probably one of the more difficult challenges in my climbing career. By the end I was barely able to keep it together, all of my tips were split open, and I was really scared in a lot of moments. I have an enormous amount of respect for people who excel at granite big-wall free-climbing now."

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We reached the base of the Monster Offwidth in a little less than 4 hours after leaving the ground. It was the fastest I’d climbed the bottom of El Capitan - with the golden ticket of a partner @alexhonnold simuling/jugging behind me. It felt pretty amazing to cover so much rock so quickly. After the powerful downclimb I lurched into the offwidth, shimying my body upward in the nausea-inducing way wide climbing provides. Although now I have a cheeky system that helps me squeak through this pitch w less drama and blood than before. After the downclimb I scrape my way up 15ft to a no hands pedestal and sit. I tag across a right approach shoe (@lasportivana TX4) and a #6 Camelot. I switch my right TC pro for the TX4 and now with a slightly larger more comfy right foot I am able to cam and heel-toe, a much more effective method than my prior reverse cheese grater strategy. Yesterday it felt easy. I was moving upward at a slow but consistent pace. Even the #6 - which is usually annoying to push above my head - was sliding smoothly and not snagging like usual. The 6 is the only protection you get on the Monster, aside from a cam at the start and a bolt about 30ft up. Then it’s around 80ft of shuffling that 6 above your head until it’s too tight and you have to leave it behind for the last 20ft. It came time to leave the 6 and I cautiously moved out a bit to get around it when I glanced down and realized that it wasn’t clipped to anything. I had pushed the cam up the entire Monster without actually clipping into it. I lol’ed at the horror of taking a 100+ft whipper and understood immediately why it was so easy to push up. My day did not end with a send of Golden Gate in a day, but I was damn close and I made it a lot further than I expected. I feel really lucky and grateful that I have the opportunity to put everything I have (time, energy, passion) into such a big project, that I have so much support from partners, friends, and sponsors; and that the Monster Offwidth is no longer my biggest fear on El Cap. Maybe I should just ditch that #6 all together next time? 📸 @austin_siadak of me entering the Monster at sunrise // @thenorthface_climb // @petzl_official

A post shared by Emily Harrington (@emilyaharrington) on

At over 3,000 vertical feet, El Capitan holds an irresistible appeal. Last year, Honnold described the joy of risking it all in what he called a “high-consequence” endeavor (i.e., one in which you can plunge to your death). Preparation is detailed and intense. Honnold prepared for nearly two years to make his climb.

“Really, it is relaxing,” Honnold explained of the allure. “There’s no speed. It’s a lot like I imagine hang-gliding is. From the outside it looks very extreme but there’s something very methodical and intentional about it.”

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