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8-year-old boy plans to hang a banner on El Capitan that says ‘I love you, Mom’ as he aims to reach the top Friday

By Theresa Waldrop, CNN

An 8-year-old Colorado boy is on track to become the youngest person to climb El Capitan in California’s Yosemite National Park and he hopes to reach the top of the summit on Friday evening, his father said.

On their last leg of the four-day adventure, Sam Adventure Baker — his real name — and his climbing partner and father, Joe Baker, plan to hang a banner on their way up that says, “I love you, Mom, almost there,” the two told CNN Friday morning from their hanging camp.

“I’m hoping to reach the top at 5 p.m.,” by sunset local time, Joe told CNN’s Erica Hill.

Joe said he expected Sam to cry at some point during the climb, “because it’s hard, it’s emotional, but he has been so tough and worked through all of it.”

Even after climbing until past 1 a.m. one night after the pair got caught behind another climbing party that had a bag stuck, Joe said.

Rising 3,000 feet from the valley floor, El Capitan is 2.5 times as tall as the Empire State Building, according to the Yosemite National Park website.

“Were you scared up there at all?” he asked his son during the interview. “Nope,” Sam answered, and was immediately teased by his father that he had been afraid.

Nearing the top of the vertical 3,000-feet rock formation, “it feels like we’re above eternity up here,” Joe said. “Like, I look over the edge, and it’s, like, forever down.”

Sam’s parents fell in love with rock climbing when Sam “was in a harness, before he could walk,” Joe told CNN.

“He seems really happy to be up there and spirits are high,” Sam’s mother, Ann Baker, told CNN in an interview earlier this week.

Ann said Sam grew up in a climbing family and she has always been “100% supportive of Sam’s climbing adventures.”

Sam had been training to take on El Capitan for at least 18 months, Joe said, and after taking him up Moonlight Buttress in Utah’s Zion National Park, Joe knew he was ready to tackle El Capitan, he said.

“He did terrific on it and really showed us that he could handle the exposure,” Joe said.

The father-son duo are climbing in a four-person team, which involves one person climbing ahead of the others and setting the ropes for the others to follow.

So what does Sam think about making history by becoming the youngest to climb the iconic rock formation?

“It’s interesting. He doesn’t really care about that,” Joe said. “When Ann and I talked about this project a couple of years ago, we just said, ‘Take him when he’s ready.’ And he is definitely ready.”

™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Stephanie Gallman, Chris Boyette and Emma Tucker contributed to this report.

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