70-year-old makes history as oldest woman to climb Yosemite's El Capitan

El Capitan.
El Capitan. Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Dierdre Wolownick found a pretty impressive way to celebrate a milestone: On her 70th birthday, Wolownick became the oldest woman to climb Yosemite's El Capitan.

She actually broke her own record — in 2017, she made the trek up the 3,000-foot vertical rock formation with her son, famed climber Alex Honnold. Wolownick began climbing in 2009, as a way to connect with Honnold and get a better sense of what it was like for him on his climbs. She has worked as a French teacher, writer, musician, and artist, and this opened up a whole new world.

"It's all been an amazing experience, one I never could have dreamed up for myself," Wolownick told the Los Angeles Times. "I used to look up at those tiny dots going up that granite wall and wonder what they saw up there and what they felt up there."

She made her birthday climb on Sept. 23, and after 10 hours, reached the top at sunset. Wolownick was accompanied by a group of friends, who celebrated her achievement with champagne and cupcakes. She wants other people to see her as an example, and to know it's never too late to follow a new interest. "Once you start and decide you want to do something, it can be powerful," Wolownick told the Times. "I say, just try it. Try it! You never know what might happen."

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