ST. GEORGE – Hanging off a steep wall by our fingertips wouldn’t be something most of us would do, but it’s commonplace for 8-year-old Sam Adventure Baker, and yes, that’s his real name.
Sam and his father Joe Baker spent the night on cots anchored to the side of Moonlight Buttress in Zion National Park, Springdale, Utah during their climb Photo courtesy of Joe Baker, St George News
Baker is an avid rock climber, having recently scaled the 1,200-foot cliff Moonlight Buttress in Zion National Park with his father, Joe Baker. The stone wall is next to Angels Landing and rises to the same height.
“It’s sheer, even a bit overhanging with a single crack running across the face,” said Joe Baker. “We climb from the bottom up and you’re always either hanging by your fingers or by the anchor you’re connected to.”
The couple spent a week in southern Utah with their family and then climbed May 23-24. Moonlight Buttress was chosen for Sam Baker to practice on for September’s ultimate challenge: El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. His goal is to be the youngest person to ever scale the legendary peak. Sam Baker has scaled peaks like the Lost Arrow Spire, a 2,700-foot cliff next to North America’s tallest waterfall.
In preparation, Sam Baker climbs the back porch of his home in Colorado Springs, Colorado, three days a week. He does “The Ladder,” which breaks down to the following without a break: five pull-ups and 10 push-ups, then four pull-ups and eight push-ups, then three pull-ups and six push-ups, and finally one pull-up and two push-ups, Joe Baker said.
Everyone in the Baker family enjoys the outdoors and will learn to climb like Sam, location and date unknown | Photo courtesy of Joe Baker, St George News
When climbing, Sam Baker experiences a range of emotions and physical challenges.
“Sometimes I’m scared, but the ones I fear the most are sharks and spiders. Luckily there are no sharks up there in Zion,” said Sam Baker.
His father said they do it at home; crawl, run and climb. Before Sam Baker could run, he could climb. Joe Baker said his son got a knack for it when he was five or six years old. Joe Baker encourages the sport to develop character in his children, including Sam’s two brothers and one sister.
The duo have been preparing to climb in Zion for a long time. Joe Baker said it takes a lot of logistics to make it safe and it comes down to having the right team, especially since the Zion climb took two days.
“The unique thing about this climb is that we climbed it in two days. So we climbed the first half of the first day,” said Joe Baker. “And then on the second day we climbed the second half. There are very few ledges, if any, on this climb, so we had to bring up what are known as portal ledges, which are like cots anchored to the side of the wall to sleep on.”
The pair experience extreme temperatures on the climb.
“It feels like cooking on the wall because it’s like 100 degrees. But at night it drops to 40 degrees and it feels like you’re freezing,” said Joe Baker. “And there are some pretty big extremes to prepare for.”
Sam Baker said they enjoyed stargazing in the evenings and shining a laser light on the walls of Zion Canyon. Although it was a fun journey, he cried at times because of the difficulty of the climb.
His father always reminded him to “eat the elephant step by step”. Or in this case one climb after another. Sam Baker said a pitch is a climbing segment, usually 100 feet in each section. Each can have different levels of difficulty.
Sam Baker had a hard time on one of the pitches.
“He was upset,” said Joe Baker. “And I said Sam we can get out of there. We just have to keep going up; The way out is above. And Sam regained his courage when he realized, ‘Okay, I have to do this and I’ve committed to it.’ It all came back to him.”
Sam Baker said he hit his father on the top of Moonlight Buttress. His mother was waiting for them upstairs.
“I felt really good. I just wanted to see my mom and hug her,” Sam Baker said
Wilderness climbing permits are not required for day climbs. However, according to the Zion National Park website, they are required for all overnight hikes.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2022, All Rights Reserved.
Stephanie DeGraw is an award-winning journalist. She has worked in journalism, broadcasting and public relations for 25 years. DeGraw has worked for the Salt Lake Tribune, Associated Press and The City Journals. She was a reporter for a CBS television station in Twin Falls, Idaho. She graduated from Weber State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and broadcasting.