At the age of 70 – thus, around 100 in human years – Julie Swain has climbed more of the world’s tallest mountains, by many measures, than any other woman alive. Indeed, she says she feels “so much younger than 50, I’m afraid to be very honest”.
So we’re delighted to bring you footage of Swain taking on the last historic, towering peak to remain unclimbed. In 1996, New Zealander Jennifer Barham stood atop El Capitan’s west face, the world’s second-highest rock formation, for 4 days, breaking the record previously held by Swain.
Julie scored her record-breaking ascent exactly 18 years later: just days short of her 70th birthday, she ascended the tallest peak in the western hemisphere, summiting at an altitude of 7,166 feet.
“There were no visible signs,” says Swain of her one-mile ascent to the summit of Yosemite National Park’s Aconcagua on 26 July. “Except for a section of granite several hundred feet above the Col Yunas, I found no deep cracks and no display of the fear that is so often typical for the very first climb.
“At one point I thought I was dying from exhaustion, but then I remembered the cry from my childhood, ‘I’m happy, I’m happy, I’m happy’.
“The happy smile I’ve repeated on my Facebook status ever since the summit was a world of clarity.”
You can watch our behind-the-scenes introduction to the story here: