A 13-Year-Old California Teen Becomes Youngest to Climb Everest

For many 13-year-old boys, the journey from childhood to manhood begins with their first job or discovering girls. But for Jordan Romero, it is unfolding in an attempt to become the youngest person to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Jordan Romero, above, in 2009 after reaching the summit of Oceania’s highest peak, the Carstensz Pyramid, at 16,024 feet. In April, he was in Katmandu, Nepal, preparing to climb Mount Everest. Photo: Team Romero

For many 13-year-old boys, the journey from childhood to manhood begins with their first job or discovering girls. But for Jordan Romero from Big Bear, California, it’s unfolding in an attempt to become the youngest person to reach the summit of Mount Everest. He scaled the 8,850 meter (29,035 feet) summit from the Tibetan side, on the same day a Nepali man broke his own world record for the most number of successful Everest attempts.

Then 13-year-old Jordan Romero took the satellite phone and called his mom. “He said, ‘Mom, I’m calling you from the top of the world,”‘ a giddy Leigh Anne Drake told Reuters from California, where she had been watching her son’s progress minute by minute on a GPS tracker online. “There were lots of tears and ‘I love you! I love you!”‘ Drake said. “I just told him to get his butt back home.”

With Saturday’s success on the world’s highest mountain, Jordan is just one climb from his quest to reach the highest peaks on all seven continents. “It is just a goal,” Romero had told Reuters in the Nepali capital Kathmandu in April. He had already climbed five peaks including Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, and needs to climb only Vinson Massif, the highest peak in Antarctica to hit his target.

The teenager with a mop of long curly hair – who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa when he was 9 years old – says he was inspired by a painting in his school hallway of the seven continents’ highest summits. “Every step I take is finally toward the biggest goal of my life, to stand on top of the world,” Jordan said earlier on his blog.

Although Jordan is a typical eighth-grader with floppy blond locks who forgets to shower and brush his teeth and loves listening to Cali P and Jay-Z with friends, Lundgren, 45, sees a mature mountaineer.

The previous youngest person to summit Everest was 16-year-old Temba Tsheri Sherpa of Nepal.

Also Saturday, officials said a Nepalese Sherpa who lives in Salt Lake City broke his own world record by climbing Everest for the 20th time. Apa, who goes by one name, went up to collect garbage, a growing environmental problem on the mountain.

Several climbers took advantage of Saturday’s clear weather to reach the summit, Mountaineering Department official Tilak Pandey said. May is the most popular month for Everest climbs because of more favorable weather.

Romero during his climbing expedition up Mount Everest. “I really have dreamed about standing on top of the world since I was a little kid,” he wrote in an e-mail message. Photo: Team Romero

Jordan had never climbed above 8,000 meters (26,240 feet), but his team climbed quickly along the final ridge to arrive at the peak hours ahead of schedule.

“The first thing, they all hugged each other and said, ‘I love you, I can’t believe we’re finally here’ and started crying,” said Rob Bailey, the team’s spokesman, by phone from the United States.

“I don’t think it ever dawned on them to say, ‘Oh my gosh, Jordan, you’re the youngest to get up here,”‘ Bailey said. “It’s never been about setting a record, besting anybody else.”

Jordan, from the San Bernardino Mountains ski town of Big Bear, California, was climbing Everest with his father, his father’s girlfriend and three Sherpa guides.

Helicopter paramedic Paul Romero and his girlfriend have trained Jordan for top-level mountaineering. Romero and Karen Lundgren are adventure racers, competing in weeklong endurance races that combine biking, climbing, paddling and climbing through wilderness areas.

Before the group set out for Nepal, Paul Romero said he wanted nothing more than to make his son’s dreams come true, even as the quest raised questions over how young is too young to scale Everest, a mountain where harsh conditions have caused scores of climbers’ deaths.

The group, dubbed “Team Jordan” on the teen’s blog, approached the peak along the technically more difficult, less-traveled northern route from the base camp on the Chinese side.

Unlike neighboring Nepal, the other approach to Everest, China has no age limit for climbers. Jordan registered with Chinese officials in April, said Zhang Mingxing, secretary general of China Tibet Mountaineering Association.

Climbers stay overnight at three or four camps before the summit, depending on their route and pace. Jordan’s team spent nearly five weeks on the mountain acclimatizing and preparing for Saturday’s predawn final climb.

“That’s the one that probably meant the most,” Bailey said. At the summit, Jordan left behind his lucky rabbit’s foot and planted some seeds that a Buddhist monk at a local monastery had given him for luck on his journey, Bailey said.

Then he took the satellite phone and called his mom.”He’s such a good boy and he calls his mom every day,” Drake said, laughing, just minutes later. Drake said her son took two months of homework with him to keep up in school

Jordan continues the recent trend of young adventurers. Earlier this month, 16-year-old Australian Jessica Watson became the youngest person to sail around the globe solo, nonstop and unassisted. Thousands lined Sydney Harbor to cheer as she cruised past the finish line in her pink yacht. And in January, 17-year-old Johnny Collinson of Utah became the youngest person to climb the highest peaks on all seven continents.

Just one mountain remains in Jordan’s own quest to climb those peaks, the Vinson Massif in Antarctica. Jordan’s team leaves for Antarctica in December, Bailey said. [Jordan Romero via NY Times and CBS]

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