Professional rock climber Emily Harrington has made history after successfully free-climbing Yosemite National Park’s El Capitan last Wednesday — and she hopes that her incredible feat has inspired others.
Speaking to PEOPLE (the TV Show!) in a new interview, Harrington, 34, reflected on becoming the fourth person — and the first woman — to ever scale the 3,000-foot granite summit without the help of rope or another mechanism.
"The people before me who have achieved this are kind of like some of my ultimate heroes in rock climbing," she said, "so it feels pretty special to join that group."
Harrington began her climb at 1:34 a.m. local time on Nov. 4 with Alex Honnold, who chronicled his own journey climbing El Capitan in the Academy Award-winning documentary Free Solo.
"Alex and I did something called simul-climbing," she explained. "Which means, imagine me tied into the top of the rope and him tied into the bottom of the rope, and then we ascended the wall together."
She added of Honnold, 35, "It's really fun to be on top El Capitan with him, because you know that he's having fun and he loves it and he's not stressed."
But Harrington's climb was not without injury — at one point, she slipped and was left with a nasty wound on her forehead that required her to take a break.
"I took like a weird sideways fall and I couldn't get my feet out in front of me and my head actually kind of just like bounced into the wall," she recalled. "I got this weird puncture wound on my forehead, and I don't think I had a concussion, I didn't lose consciousness or anything."
"I rested a little bit longer, bandaged it up, and then tried again," Harrington said, adding that although she "kind of didn't really want to try again," she powered through because "I felt like I owed it to myself to try again."
After 21 hours and 13 minutes, Harrington scaled all of El Capitan, accomplishing a feat she failed to finish two times last year.
"That was my life dream. I achieved it," she said.
Harrington also said she's hopeful that her journey has inspired others. "I hope that as a result of my story more people will get to experience climbing, or at least try."
Harrington made headlines last year when she fell while climbing El Capitan and was hospitalized. She previously summited Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, according to her website.
As a former member of the USA climbing team, Harrington has competed in five U.S. sport climbing championships and two North American championships.
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