Teen Adventurers: How Young Is Too Young?

Yesterday we had an interesting article, courtesy of Alan Arnette, on the right age to be climbing Everest. In that story, Alan talks about the youngest and oldest to make that climb, and mentioned two people going for the opposite ends of that spectrum this Spring.

One of those climbers, Jordan Romero, is the subject of an article from Outside Magazine entitled “Into Teen Air”, that not only looks at the exploits of the 13-year old mountaineer, but also asks some tough questions, such as at what age is it too young for these kids to be making these these high altitude climbs?

The story mainly focuses on Jordan and his plans to summit Everest this spring, following his successful climb of six of the other Seven Summits. But it also takes a look at Johnny Strange and Johnny Collinson. Strange is the current record holder for the Seven Summits, at the age of 17, but Collinson also made those climbs at the same age, and was bested by just a few months.

Both of them faced similar criticisms as Jordan while they were planning their expeditions. Still, Strange says that he wanted to climb Everest at 13, and now admits that it wouldn’t have been a good idea.

All in all, the article reads more like a profile of Jordan, but does try to tell both sides of the story. It’s hard not to be impressed by the kid, and it seems his father is taking great strides to make sure everything remains safe. Jordan is a cool customer, with lots of experience at altitude now, and he seems to be humble and well grounded. Still, I can’t help but feel that 13 is just too young to be on Everest, or any other 8000 meter peak.

I also think it is a bit ridiculous to be chasing records for the “youngest” to accomplish something. Those kinds of records are dubious and dangerous in my opinion, and if it isn’t about those records, whey can’t he wait until he’s older to fulfill his quest? It should be noted that I fell very similarly about other kids going for circumnavigation records and similar adventurous pursuits.

I do wish Jordan luck of course. I hope that the climb goes well and that he not only reaches the summit, but makes it back down in one piece. I just happen to fear the ten year old who will follow him.

Kraig Becker

10 thoughts on “Teen Adventurers: How Young Is Too Young?”

  1. One piece of this story that really irks me has to do with the Romero's thinking training is all you need.

    In reference to possibly running into trouble on the mountain: "TEAM ROMERO TRAINS HARD to make sure it doesn't."

    I guess the likes of Rob Hall and Scott Fischer just didn't train hard enough to avoid death, but a 13 year old can.

    Note to TEAM ROMERO: all the training in the world can't guarantee Jordan is going to come back alive.

    Everest is no place for a 13 year old.

    Let's look again at some of the sobering statistics:

    The death rate on Mount Everest has not changed over the years, with about one death for every 10 successful ascents. For anyone who reaches the summit, they have about a 1 in 20 chance of not making it down again.

    (source: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/50493.php)

    Are these the type of odds you want to gamble with your child? As a father myself, I certainly wouldn't.

  2. I also love how Team Romero says the reason they are doing the North Side is because they didn't want to risk the Khumbu Icefall with young Jordan.

    I guess the fact that Nepal has an age limit of 16 had nothing to do with the decision… it was all safety. Give me a break.

  3. Yeah, the age limit on the South was probably a factor, although they have gotten around that in other places, such as Aconcagua, before.

    Also, Jordan's father is a high altitude medic, so that helps some what. Just hope they play it safe at every step.

  4. In the "good old times" you didn't have teenagers going for 8000 meter peaks, and don't you think there is a world of difference between Rainier and Everest?

  5. Want to say it here as well: A 13 year old's muscles are still in their growth phase. On Everest you are above 8000 meters for a very long time so that this mountain would probably eat this boy up within minutes. Leaving a kid to Everest is irresponsible in my opinion.
    I wish him the best of luck that he comes back safe and in one piece. I'm just afraid that next time a 12 or even 11 yo child trying to beat this if he makes it to the top.

  6. Sure Rainier is a tough climb, but comparing it to Everest is like comparing a moped to a Ducati. They aren't even in the same league.

    Whittaker's comments in that article in no way endorses the notion of 13 year olds bagging 8000M peaks.

    He simply states he 12 the first time he topped out on Rainier. He doesn't claim those were the good old days when nobody cared how old you were. Way to twist his words.

  7. I just hope he'll make it as not sure someone else will try to beat this young age after. It involves high costs to do the 7m and especially Everest. I hope it'll just stop ridiculous firsts (of each country, or female of a country) and records for younger or oldest.

  8. Also, Jordan's father is a high altitude medic, so that helps some what.

    You're unintentionally pointing out the even greater irony – his father obviously is smarter than the average person, since he's a medic. But, you would think that someone who's that smart would realize how foolish it is for a kid to attempt Everest.

    A 13 year old's muscles are still in their growth phase.

    Also, is there any truth that younger people usually have trouble dealing with altitude because their brains are larger relative to their skulls? Supposedly, as you get older, your brain shrinks a bit (mine even more due to alcohol, but that's another story….), and older people adjust to altitude easier than younger people.

    Peter Whittaker is a co-owner of Rainier Mountaineering, so he's obviously going to "sex up" mountaineering a bit, he has a vested interest in doing so – "Why sure, a 12 year old can climb Everest! That will be $70,000 please!"

    I just hope he'll make it as not sure someone else will try to beat this young age after.

    Unfortunately, it's going to take a tragedy to stop this foolishness with "firsts". When it happens, everyone will predictably say: "Why didn't someone stop him from attempting this? There really should be some regulations….."

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