Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How Young is Too Young for Everest? 11-Year Old Planning Expedition to World's Highest Peak

Back in 2010 there was a raging debate in the mountaineering community about how old someone should be before they attempt a climb up Everest. At the time, American Jordan Romero was attempting to complete the Seven Summits, and the tallest mountain on Earth was his next objective. He was just 13 years old, and many – myself included – felt that he was too young to attempt such an expedition. But Jordan would eventually get up and down the mountain safely, becoming the youngest person to achieve that feat. He would later become the youngest to climb all of the Seven Summits as well, completing that task well before his 16th birthday.

Jordan's efforts were certainly inspiring, and he has proven himself to be an exceptional young man. But in the wake of his Everest climb, both Nepal and Tibet instituted age requirements for climbers in an effort to ensure that there wasn't suddenly a rush of children on the mountain. Since then, no one has truly challenged Jordan's record, although there have been some other teenage climbers who have summited the mountain.

Now it may be time to start thinking about this debate once again. An 11-year old American by the name of Tyler Armstrong says that he wants to climb Everest in the spring of 2016 as he continues his quest for the Seven Summits as well, and attempts to raise money to combat muscular dystrophy. If given the chance to climb the mountain, he would be 12 years and 4 months old at the time.


While this sounds like a recipe for disaster, Tyler isn't without experience on big mountains. He has climbed Rainier on more than one occasion, and he has also climbed Kilimanjaro and Aconcagua too. He plans to go to Russia to attempt Elbrus soon as well, which he sees as a warm-up to Everest. Still, none of those mountains is an 8000-meter peak, which brings a whole new level of challenge that the young man has yet to encounter.

In order to climb Everest, Tyler would first have to get special permission from either the Nepali government or the Chinese-Tibet Mountaineering Association. Either one could easily deny him a climbing permit, although they could just as easily give him the okay as well. Considering the results of the last two climbing seasons on Everest however, I would think twice about granting permission to climb to a young man who isn't even a teenager yet.

I'll go on record now as saying that I think this is once again a bad idea. I felt that way five years ago when Jordan Romero was climbing as well, and while he went on to prove me wrong, I still believe that 8000-meter peaks are no place for children, no matter where else they've climbed. For now, we'll have to wait to see if either the Nepalese or Chinese grant Tyler a permit, but I for one hope that they stick to the guidelines enacted back in 2010 and continue to require minimum age limits for all climbers. Unfortunately I don't feel all that confident that they will indeed enforce those rules.

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