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Mount Everest ascent planned by 13-year-old

By Lynn Herrmann     Apr 6, 2010 in Travel
Big Bear Lake - Jordan Romero, a 13 year-old from Big Bear Lake, California has his sights on the summit of Mount Everest, in an attempt at becoming the youngest person to conquer the 29,035-foot mountain.
Jordan, along with his father and his father’s girlfriend will attempt the climb next month. Mt. Everest is part of his goal of bagging the tallest peaks on all seven continents.
His father, Paul, 40, and Paul’s partner, Karen Lundgren, 44, along with Jordan make up Team Romero. Both Paul, a life-flight medic, and Karen are pro adventure racers, an endurance sport that combines paddling, climbing, and biking races in wilderness areas across the globe.
Inspiration from a school mural of the seven summits he saw at age 9 led him on the mountaineering quest, according to Outside Magazine. “I told my dad about it and he didn’t say no. He just explained the difficulties and what I’d have to do. We started training right away,” Jordan said.
He was the youngest American, at age 10, to summit Africa’s 19,340-foot Mount Kilimanjaro, that continent’s highest peak. The same year he added 7,310-foot Mount Kosciusko in Australia and Europe’s 18,510-foot Mount Elbrus to his summit accomplishments. At age 11 he set the age record for South America’s 22,834-foot Mount Aconcagua and bagged North America’s 20,320-foot Denali.
Those accomplishments leave him with Everest and 16,067-foot Vinson Massif in Antarctica on the seven summits list yet to conquer. However, there are those within the mountaineering community expressing concerns about the short-term and long-term effects of high altitude on a still-developing young body combined with the dangers of a mountain like Everest.
Extreme conditions such as cold, thin air, exhaustion, avalanches and falls have taken the lives of hundreds of climbers on Everest. Temperatures near the summit can plummet to 100 degrees below zero. Combined with gale-force winds that blow throughout the year, there is no room for error, even for the most experienced climbers.
Elizabeth Hawley, a climbing historian based in Khathmandu, does not favor age limits on climbs, but she sees the trend of younger and younger climbers attempting the big mountains as a growing concern. “This is too young an age to be climbing huge mountains,” she said. Teenage physiques are still developing, “and equally if not more importantly, their judgement and reflexes based on experience have not had time to be well developed.”
One of Everest’s most successful guides, Russell Brice, stated: “I do not see how young people under the age of 18 can gain enough experience about mountaineering or themselves to undertake such a project safely.” Jordan has never climbed higher than Aconcagua’s 22,834-foot elevation and needed a court order in Argentina to circumvent the age requirement of 14. "I would be concerned for the others who are around that climber, and for sure I would try not to have my team going to the summit on that same day," Brice added.
Adding to the challenge is the fact that Team Romero will be attempting the summit without the services of a professional guide service, which would double expedition costs. Sherpa Adventure Travel will provide them with three climbing Sherpas for the summit attempt as well as base camp facilities, food and oxygen.
The team is aware of the controversy this decision has created within the climbing community, however, they defend it. “So far we've done all our climbs that way, except Kilimanjaro, where you're required to hire a local guide," Karen said. "We climb like we race—very light, taking only what we absolutely need. And there's no one there to tell us Jordan's too young."
Karen and Paul’s Himilayan mountain experience consists of one climb on 25,790-foot Mount Nuptse, which lies beside Everest. They failed to reach its summit, suggesting the effort was a research expedition for the upcoming ascent with Jordan. “I learned one thing,” Paul says in the Outside story. "The Khumbu Icefall is a place I never want to visit again. It was like playing Russian roulette. We had giant serac collapses. Someone died. That convinced me I didn't want to take Jordan on the standard route."
Nepal’s age requirement is 16, due to an incident ten years ago in which Temba Tsheri, a 15 year-old Nepali boy, lost five fingers while attempting to climb Everest. China has no such restriction and the Chinese permit is cheaper, saving Team Romero money. Saving money and no age restrictions dictates they attempt the ascent by way of the Northeast Ridge, a route famous for its vertical rock wall.
"I know that criticism is out there," Paul Romero says. "I cannot waste my time with it. I think about it, of course. It's one of the last things I think about at night when I lie in bed. Karen and I weigh that all the time. And I feel as strongly confident as ever, watching Jordan and the team develop. On a physical level, Jordan is getting so strong. That's 5 percent of what matters on Everest, of course."
Team Romero departed California on Monday and will attempt the ascent in early May.
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