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Thirteen year old to attempt Everest Good to encourage the kid to achieve greatness, but I think lack of parental wisdom is apparent. There are plenty of less dangerous peaks to groom the kid’s skills on in the mean time. He has a whole life to achieve his dreams; I don’t understand the imprudent rush, unless perhaps the father fears he’ll be too old to do these thing with his son, later, when both know more about what they are getting themselves into. If that is the case, well dad needs to find other oppertunities to bond

I hesitate to comment here as I have no real mountaineering experience, but just speaking as someone who used to be that age, I doubt that any 14 year old has enough life experience or maturity to grasp the gravity of the decision.

I would like to hear what those with experience think.

Well, he has bagged some pretty big peaks. I would imagine someone in their 30's who had the same climbing experience would feel capable of summitting Everest.

That being said, since becoming a father I know I wouldn't let my son climb Everest at such a young age.

Outside magazine recently wrote a story about him. On the plus side, this boy already summited Denali and Aconcagua, so he has some big mountain, high-altitude experience. I wonder how many clients on guided Everest climbs have that kind of experience under their belt. The boy's age may affect his decision-making in an emergency situation, but because he has such unusual experience, I'm not sure how meaningful a concern this is.

My concern is their plan to summit Everest. From what I read, the plan was to summit with limited time built in to get used to the altitude, and without a guide, though neither parent has ever been to the summit. Hopefully, they will decide that it's worthwhile to find a guide and spend more time acclimatizing.

Everyone has a different tolerance for risk. i have three children, one a twelve year-old boy, and whether I have the experience and conditioning to tackle that kind of climb, i wouldn't do a high-altitude climb with or without him. That kind of cold and altitude creates a pretty serious risk of frostbite and pulmonary or cerebral edema, not to mention dying. too much risk for me, and I would never expose my children to it. If they want that when they are adults, and if they train and build up their experience, different story.

I hike with my kids all the time - three season, and not when the weather looks grim. That's plenty for us. if they had a really strong interest, i would consider winter hikes with them up the white mountains or adirondacks, when they are older (16? 18?), but I have enough experience to get them geared, trained, and educated about the risks and how to avoid them.

Skill and technical ability are one thing, judgement and experience and wisdom are another. Dad is putting a 14 year old into a situation that he is likely ill prepared to deal with should something go wrong. It's all good and fine until an accident happens and, or a bad storm hits and the sh!t hits the fan. Dad lives, kid dies, mom is at home grieving. They should read Into Thin Air and realize that these accidents can happen to them, not just someone else.

Outside did have a very good article on Jordan Romero. Here's the link for "Into Teen Air" by Bruce Barcott.

There are two issues being discussed here: 1) can he do it?, and 2) should he do it?

My opinion is that yes, he may well have the physical ability to do it, though there are no guarantees, and conditions and variables may not allow him to summit.

Should he do it though? Well, as a parent, I can't imagine risking a 13-year-old's life that way. If my kids wanted to do this as an adult, that would be different and it would be his/her choice.

Yes, life is filled with risks and kids should be active and outside and challenged, but I just can't come up with a good enough reason as a parent to allow a child to do that at 13, even to be the first or the youngest at something. I think the record setting aspect can greatly affect the how and why of these activities, so I find that of concern.

But, that's me and I'm not his parent, nor do I know him. So it comes back to a personal sense of risk and reward. I do some stuff with my kids that other parents may not do, so it's hard to find that line. This is just a really extreme example.

The odd thing, as the Outside article notes, is that as the record-setting-youth movement heats up, "real kids" are more likely to be indoors and sedentary. It's strange that we are bringing up some more extreme kids at the same time that the general population is moving in the opposite direction. That's my real concern.

This is not really a matter of a parent "allowing" their child to do something life-threatening, these parents are encouraging and enabling the child to risk his life at a time when his brain has not developed the cerebral pathways to make such decisions in a logical manner.

Another view: if my 13-year-old son asked for $150,000.00 for his hobby or sport, I would tell him to start saving for it. Is this wrong? I don't think so. There is a lot to be learned by delaying gratification and establishing priorities.


Solid thoughts everyone... as a parent I echo all the above concern.

Thanks for sharing that article Alicia. The "extreme kid" concept is very interesting and touches a serious concern of mine. My kiddos will always prefer the outdoors to the indoors... and, part of that, is having goals and dreams of what to do out there. My oldest (almost four) already tells me how he is going to "be a runner" like me and was putting together his own first aid kit beside me on the couch as I revamped mine. As he grows older, his dreams will have to evolve beyond those kind of things into bigger dreams. For example, I hope to encourage him to thru-hike some major trails with me.

Now, while, as I parent I feel I need to nurture those impulses and grow those dreams, I also feel that it is my God-given responsibility to make those realistic and achievable goals (i.e., won't put him/her into mortal danger or financial ruin or otherwise). So, while I want a kid who is "extreme" compared to the rest of the slugs out there AND want them to view themselves as extraordinary in their outdoor pursuits, I do have to place limits. It will be a middle ground that will be hard-fought and completely-enjoyed!

Once again, we are a society that defines itself by polarities.

I couldn't help but chuckle that this comes up shortly after a(nother) study is published suggesting that, yes, indeed, puberty makes you stupid.

The link is to a Time article which in turn pulls from the research study done with mice which showed that pubescent mice were, compared to either pre-pubescent or post-pubescent mice, well, shall we say "significantly less capable of learning"?

I won't comment on the particular case at hand, since I know none of the pertinent details. I will only say that in general I view the idea of a pubescent male as a part of a team attempting to summit Everest as a pretty poor one.

In many respects, these discussions about maturity of teenagers amuse me. The Time article claims that "until 20 years ago", shrinks, er, I mean, psychologists and other mental brain pickers thought the adolescent brain was pretty mature. Yet, Piaget (a Swiss who studied child development back in the 1930s, which is more like 80 years ago), noted through his observations that children progress through 4 basic stages of mental development - sensorimotor (birth to 2 yo), preoperational (2 - 7 yo, when a lot of the thinking is "magical"), concrete operational (7-12 yo, where they develop logical thought in concrete situations), and formal operational (12 onward, where they develop abstract reasoning) The ages are not sharp divisions. Also, the idea that kids 7-12 can grasp one concept at a time, 12-15 up to 3, and over 21, 7 concepts is the basis of "no more than 3 destinations on highways, no more than 7 bullet points on powerpoint charts for adults). Basically, a 13 year old is just starting to be capable of abstract thought. And abstract thought is required for good judgment.

On the other hand, kids being brought up today, particularly in urban environments, are not given the responsibilities and freedom of kids 50 years ago, much less a century ago, when the children played an important role in supporting the family (especially on the family farm). Observing my son's contemporaries, I suspect that Piaget would have boosted the age brackets by a couple of years. In the youth in Boy Scouts that I deal with, I find that kids who have responsibilities in their home life have (or seem to have) better judgment and more maturity than kids who are carefully protected and shielded by their parents. On the other hand, kids who are pushed hard to achieve (we have lots of those here in Silicon Valley, with super over-achieving parents) seem to be less mature and sometimes exhibit incredibly bad judgment.

Well, the boy, his dad, and dad's girlfriend left U.S. soil a few days ago to pursue this quest. I hope it goes well - that the experience is positive, and someone exercises good judgment, and that everyone returns in one piece.

I agree that some teenagers don't respond well to unexpected situations in the mountains, and I don't think thirteen year-olds belong on Everest. At the same time, i spent some summers guiding teenagers up the high peaks in the Adirondacks, and those fourteen and fifteen year-olds learned a lot about taking care of their own needs and staying safe in the mountains.

I'm also pretty confident that teens who learn something about the hills are more likely to survive a bad situation than the poorly-equipped adult hikers I have encountered in the White Mountains and Adirondacks over the years.

Also agree that levels of risk are a personal choice. I would take my twelve year-old up Mount Washington or Mount Marcy in the summer (not winter), and the reality is that people get hurt, lost, and sometimes die up there in the summer.

Judgement, the ability to do critical reasoning, the ability to turn back after borrowing $150,000 from your dad, the desire to get girls because yer a climbing stud, the desire to prove that yer grown up even though yer a kid.

Besides the above, going to that altitude is entering what is called "the death zone". This isn't fantasy, at those altitude your body starts to die. The low oxygen pressure, thickened blood etc, are real dangers. Everest climbers that I know say this "The Goddess extracts payment from those who attempt the summit". The Goddess at the peak of Everest rides a tiger. People lose something going up there, brain cells, parts of their vision etc etc, (those who don't lose actual body parts) its different for each, but going into that extreme affects the body adversely. When this kid is 30 or 40, assuming that he lives that long, will he wish he had never done it? Will he wonder why his dad leant him the money? Other children of climbers have died in the Himalayas, did their parents feel proud for letting their teenagers risk their lives for absolutely no good reason? And that's the real point. Climbing serves no purpose. I'm a climber, I do it for fun, but it means absolutely nothing in the real world. What we are talking about here is climbing rocks.

Jim S

I watch Everest on Netflix and I think it's crazy to try to climb it in the first place. Mother nature is in control up on that mountain. It doesn't matter how well you plan your betting your life and rolling the dice.

You are "betting your life and rolling the dice" every time you get into your car (whether you are driving or a passenger) and get on the road. You are betting your life against Mother Nature's tantrums, no matter where you live (earthquakes here on the Left Coast, floods in the Midwest, hurricanes on the Gulf Coast). You are betting your life on the reliability of the farmers and food processors every time you bite into your breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You are betting your life on the pilots, airplane manufacturers, and that terrorist in the seat next to you whenever you get into an airliner to fly from one airport to another.

Life is a risk, and full of risks. Being born is a guarantee of dying. The only other thing guaranteed in life is taxes (though the News says that 1/3 of all Americans will pay no income tax this time around).

You can choose to die by being a couch potato, sitting in front of the tele (or computer), consuming chips and beer (or "soft" drinks, flavored with either sugar or artificial sweeteners), or you can choose to die while engaging in some outdoor activity like rock climbing or climbing Mt Everest.

In the end, it's all the same - you die. The question is, when the undertaker comes to collect your cold, dead corpse, was your life interesting and exciting, did you contribute something to the world (the environment, your family and friends, the human race as a whole, the other living things on the planet) while living it, or did you live it in boredom at a dull, uninteresting "job" just to earn enough money to shove Big Macs in your face while watching that Big Screen TV with Surround Sound?

Excuse me. I have a hill to hike, where it is known that a mountain lion is wandering around.

In these days where people in their late twenties and early thirties are still nursing at the teat of their parent's home, a discussion of what constitutes true maturity and its relationship to age is deffinately in order.

I imagine that some thirteen year olds are more mature than some twenty-somethings. I had someone inform me once that I had no business hiking through the Alpine Lakes Wilderness at 15 years old without an adult. At one point I thought she was going to try to drag me off the trail back to town or something. Proof once again that the really dangerous animals on the trail walk on two feet and wear DEET.

We scoff at people getting maried at eighteen and are accepting of twenty-nine year olds who still live in their mom's basement (present company excepted I am sure). I am not sure that this trend is healthy. I know someone will rail at me for this comment, telling me that I don't know their life and have no right to judge them for mooching off their parents or, God help us, grandparents. I am encouraged by the stories of courage I hear about teens sailing solo around the world, climbing mountains, getting pilots licenses and the like. It gives me hope that the next generation might just break the cycle of late-onset maturity and that they may not be knocking on my door someday asking if they can use their old bedroom until they can get on their feet. It gives me hope that I too can dare to do mighty things and even, someday, move out of my mom's basement, get my own job, health insurance and car.

Bill S has it right! AMEN!

There are multiple studies which show that in a survival situation persons in the 7-15 age range are most likely to perish. But this is NOT due to the fact that they have no training or knowledge to save them. Astoundingly, actual S&R records reveal that it is 4-6 year olds that are the MOST likely to survive if lost in the woods, even more so than adults! Though I very strongly believe that such an endeavor as this boy is attempting should be the choice of his and his parents. Every person is different and he very well may be physically, emotionally, and mentally cabable of doing it, but I think it is highly unlikely.

----------------------------Shifting gears a little-

Climbing serves no purpose. I'm a climber, I do it for fun,it means absolutely nothing in the real world

I think I completely understand what you are saying here about "the real world" and agree for the most part. However, if you are speaking in an absolute sense, I would assert the opposite: that what our current socio-political cultural system typically places value in are often things that mean absolutely nothing and are void of any real or lasting value. But I realize that such a topic lies more in the realm of philosophy than not.

Excuse me. I have a hill to hike, where it is known that a mountain lion is wandering around.

Bill, I think what you said in your last comment really gets at something that is very difficult to put into words. That there is something larger than ourselves that we encounter, and that effects us even if we don't realize it, when we go out into the wild places- when we face death in the mantle of nature, measuring our limits against it. It is something that only those who go to that place and have known it can understand. I am certain all of us here know what I am talking about on some level.

I know I can't say it better than by stealing from Clive:

And I also say this. I do not think the forest would be so bright, nor the water so warm, nor love so sweet, if there were no danger in that place....There I drank life because death was in the pool." - CS Lewis

I remember what John Long said "Lets not forget that what we are talking about is climbing rocks, not rocket science and not saving the world".

Jim S

I too was a onetime uber youth outdoorsman, doing a lot of hiking and rock climbing, but my mentors convinced me to apprentice wisely, and deliberately, before tackling big walls or bigger mountains. They probably saved my life. There are so many different ways to get dead on this type of adventure, many of which a good lead guide can mitigate. Unfortunately there are also “objective” hazards – ice and rock falls, avalanches, and storms – where survival is more a luck of the draw. And the bigger the mountain, the more these fates come into play.

Perhaps a good example of how much fate can influence outcomes are some of my own experiences. I have submitted McKinley (Danali) via the West Buttress (tourist) route, having the blessing of fine weather, in the midst of several other climbing parties. Everyone present seemed qualified to attend (perhaps in part due to the park service clamping down on ill prepared/inexperienced campers on the mountain) And unlike that fateful day on Everest in 1996, everyone to a man on Danali this trip were exceedingly considerate of everyone else on the mountain. Some didn’t summit, due to agreements made beforehand, due to timing and traffic issues, and a few had to retreat due to altitude sickness. But everyone of the 27 some odd climbers got off the mountain without a case of frostbite, pulmonary edema (HAPE) or cerebral edema (HACE). On the other hand I have been on Mt Shasta (Northern California) four times, yet summated only once due to weather, regardless Shasta is only slightly over 14,000’. I also twice attempted Mt St Elias (Alaska), via the Southwest Ridge, but didn’t even get close to its 18,000’ summit either time, the highest we got being around 12,000’. In fact the worst of these trips was our second attempt on St Elias, when a sudden storm pinned us down for ten days while we were still schlepping supplies up the mountain. We were ensconced in a cave, but exhausted our food before the storm relinquished. The state of protracted exhaustion and dehydration from this ordeal resulted in three of us sustaining “minor” frostbite. (Actually there is no such thing as minor frost bite; anything bad enough to comment on entails months of recovery.) I ended up temporarily losing some toe nails, but was advised to stay off my feet for three months and away from cold for a year. But the scariest personal incident was on a February Sierra trip from Mono Pass to Yosemite Valley. While camped on a ridge above Virginia Lake, a fierce wind storm blew away two of our three tents, along with sleeping bags and significant amounts of our gear. Fortunately we were able to dig a cave, and had preplanned contingency escapes along the entire route. Still, it took three cold days to reach our evacuation road head near Lake Mary. Perhaps the saving grace was a requirement imposed by our trip leader that each person carry on their body at ALL times a survival kit, which included a space blanket bivy, maps, flashlight, and $100 cash, among other items. That really did make a difference.

The point I am trying to drive home is the kid can be totally fit and skilled for the climb, yet fate can deal a cruel hand. As my above experiences bear out, fate is stacked against those attending big mountains, a consideration only the wisest can fully appreciate. I have done some other challenging climbs in Alaska too, and many other Sierra and Rockies winter trips, all without incident, but not all achieved their intended objectives; for example a couple of these trips were aborted because snow conditions became unsafe. People often aggravate the impact of fate, too, refusing to turn back due to “summit fever” or plain ignorance. The thing that struck me with this group’s aspirations is the approach of all involved smacks of going out and conquering something. You don’t conquer Everest, or any wilderness for that matter. The wise trekker knows you at best are granted safe passage by the mountain, and one gracefully retreats with their life if the mountain seems unaccommodating. My above mentioned trips included individuals who would have continued on, if not for the adamant insistence of others that we get the hell out of Dodge while the going was good. The teen and his guardians will probably struggle with their own case of summit fever, given their perceived objective. I hope them the best of luck, but more so hope they find humility and discover their true place in the cosmos without the mountain claiming the ultimate penance from their party.

This is an interesting discussion.

I doubt we'd come across anyone on this forum who is against kids being raised to be independent, responsible, and challenged by virtue of outdoor activities. Since we all pursue outdoor activities, theoretically we all know the positive personal benefits of those activities and would want them passed on to kids, especially our own, if we have them.

I'm all for children of every age being regularly outside climbing mountains, hiking trails, rock climbing, skiing, paddling, whatever. I think it's essential and I find it deeply disturbing how few kids get any exposure to the outdoors and nature, let alone on a regular basis. Every one of us probably has a different level of risk for those acitivites with certain kids and what we're willing to do with them, but I seriously doubt anyone here is against these activities on the whole.

Personally, I believe I can raise a kid to become a responsible, mature individual and outdoorsperson, without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to set a record or exposing him or her to the level of risk that an Everest climb entails.

If my kid wanted to climb Everest at 20-something, I'd support his/her effort to do it in as appropriate and prepared a way as possible, knowing there would be great risks no matter what. If they wanted to do it as a minor, I'd say, "okay, here's what you'll need to learn and do now so you'll be ready for such a climb when you're an adult, if you choose to do it."

This current scenario just doesn't mesh with my personal values, but that really doesn't matter, because I'm not Jordan Romero's parent and none of it is up to me.

And, while I may think these people are nuts, I'm sure there are other people who think I'm nuts when I take my kindergartner down a double black diamond ski run or when my husband downhill skis with our (helmeted) toddler in the kid carrier.

So, where's the philosophical line?

Bill S - Your saying the odds of you kicking the proverbial bucket are just as good living your life as climbing to the top of mount Everest? I think your very mistaken about that. It's true that nobody gets out alive. However just because you can die in a multitude of ways doesn't mean climbing Everest is safe.

There have only been 58 confirmed mountain lion attacks on people in the last 100 years here in CA.

I would like to address the notion that the dependence of young adults upon their parents (a.k.a., "living in Mom's basement") is the opposite of some young thrill-seeker "conquering mountains". Statistics would probably show us that the Waynes of today spend much of their (or their parent's) money on extreme sports or binge drinking (another extreme sport) or other methods of avoiding reality.

This child has learned that his parents will financially support his expensive sports. Why should he alter his behaviour when he turns 20 or 30?

The real sign of maturity is not risking your life once, but living it consistently - doing your duty to yourself and others every day. The man or woman who goes to a job they hate, day-after-day, in order to feed their family is showing a lot more grit than someone prancing through alpine meadows with videocam rolling. Why then does our society consider the second a hero and the first a loser?


The one thing that escaped comments thus far on this forum thread was pertaining to the comments made by yahoo news readers responding to this article. I was flabbergasted how many folks enthusiastically – no make that militantly supported this endeavor. While it is vogue to lament our society has become self indulgent and irresponsible, I never thought I would come upon an example so clearly demonstrating this point, as the numerous people who defended the father’s (and all others who mentored accordingly) decision to expose this kid to such potential unnecessary peril.

How about Robin Lee Graham (1949 - )who at age 16 set out to sail around the world alone as a teenager in the summer of 1965. National Geographic Magazine carried the story, and he co-wrote a book detailing his journey titled Dove.

Graham was just sixteen when he set out alone from Southern California and headed west in his 24-foot sloop. He was originally given two kittens for company named Joliette and Suzette, and through his travels lost and gained several more, ultimately docking with Kili, Pooh and Piglet at the end of the journey. He married along the way and, after almost five years, sailed back into his home port in Los Angeles. He and his wife, Patti Ratterree, briefly attended Stanford University, then settled in Montana.

Graham's book about his voyage, Dove, was published in 1972. His voyage was depicted in a film, The Dove (1974). A followup book, Home Is The Sailor, was published in 1983. On July 16, 2009, 17 year old Zac Sunderland, who cites Robin as an inspiration, became the youngest American sailor to complete a solo circumnavigation since Graham, and the first person to ever accomplish this feat before their 18'th birthday. As of August 27th, 2009 the youngest person has been officially Mike Perham who grabbed the solo record after completing the 28,000-mile trip, crossing the finish line in Cornwall, in southern England. Perham is a 17-year-old British sailor who became the youngest person to sail around the world with assistance, completing the solo trip in nine months. {Sunderland took 13 months and 2 days}

Copied from Wikipedia

I read the book Dove in High School and later saw the movie The Dove. Is 3 years older much better? I was 21 when I hitchhiked 8000 miles alone around the USA in 1977.

While I share the view that many of the experiences this existence has to offer are relative to the people and their situation, I don't believe that relativity to be open-ended. To clarify a bit, I see in many cases reasonable limits upon which reasonable people can agree, leaving those who exist outside those limits to be unreasonable. Is this controversial? Certainly. Is it irrational, perhaps. However, the thought that a child could be just as prepared as an adult for attempting what is arguably humanity's most physically demanding achievement seems absurd enough to prove that our bodies have limits, and overcoming those limits has a definite beginning and a discrete time period to reach the end.

Less convolutedly, a 13-year old may be able to "luck out" and complete this challenge, but to claim that as proof of his preparedness is false. He is both mentally and physically unprepared for this journey precisely because of his age and the limitations of a 13 year old body.

Let the boy win his spurs.

This is an interesting dilemna, let the kid go or make him wait until he's an adult. What would you let a kid do given he has the ability; be a Nascar driver, play pro football?

The situation on Everest may be great weather and everyone summits and gets down safely. Or the situation may be that the kid has to leave his dad, or vice versa, to die on the mountain to save himself. Maybe dad and the kid die together in a storm. If the kid dies on the mountain the dad could potentially be charged with child endangerment. Everybody knows these sorts of accidents happen to somebody else, not ourselves.

Bill S - Your saying the odds of you kicking the proverbial bucket are just as good living your life as climbing to the top of mount Everest?...

I believe you misinterpreted and/or misunderstood. The odds of "kicking the proverbial bucket" are 100% - no one gets out of this life alive. It is as simple as that. You can die being a couch potato, eating unhealthy foods and not exercising, or you can die riding a motorcycle at high speed up and down the winding roads in the Santa Cruz Mountains (there are one or two every weekend), or you can die climbing Everest.

The movie "Bucket List" is a good commentary on the question of how you choose to live your allotted days. In that movie (which I highly recommend), two people (played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman) end up in the same hospital room. Nicholson is a super-rich owner of a group of hospitals (including the one he is in), while Freeman is a poor black man. Freeman has a "bucket list", a list of things he wants to do before he dies. The two of them make a pact and a modified list. They get released from the hospital and proceed to work through the list. One of the things on the list happens to be Everest. A lot of the items are high risk (some of which are too high risk for me to even consider).

There are also several books out on "1000 Places to See Before You Die". My personal take on many of them is "Who would ever want to see/do that?" But some are pretty interesting.

You have some choice over how you die, but you have no choice whether or not you ultimately die. There are some interesting statistics on this - the major source of death for young people is accidents, with automobile accidents being the largest source for teenagers in the US. For us old folks, it is diseases of old age - heart, stroke, cancer, and others. In other parts of the world, there are other diseases.

The question is how you live those few hours of your life that you get. You do have a choice on how you live your life, even though you only have partial choice on how you die. You can choose the couch potato route, or you can choose the "high adventure" route. You can choose to contribute in a positive way to the environment, your fellow human beings, and to world in general, or you can choose to generate lots of waste and toss the candy wrappers on the ground.

There is an article in today's Wall Street Journal on the level of alcohol consumption in various countries. The UK is about the highest, at some 11.2 liters (abt 3 gallons) of pure alcohol per capita (age 15 and over) per year, mostly on weekends. Some people view this as living life to the fullest.

I said earlier I had a hill to hike - here are two of the myriad of things I saw. I choose to do the woods, hills, and, yes, the high mountains over the telly, and over the computer screen.

The California Poppy - whole hillsides of these

Lupine - hillsides of these as well

Something that has appeared in several posts in this thread - an attitude of choosing activities to "confront death." Sorry, I do not go out with that macho attitude. I head for the hills for the joys of the mountains, and for companionship with my partners - like this climb of Orizaba with my friend Andres (this image is in the photo contest, by the way - hint, hint, vote for me ;D)

To bring this back on topic - While I believe that it is ok, given the right attitude and approach (including skill development) for a 13 year old to climb Everest, I have serious reservations whether 13 yo in general (and from the articles, this particular 13 yo) has the maturity, judgment, understanding of the risks involved, and life experience to make the choice of whether to attempt Everest and the decisions that he will encounter on the way.

Funny thing is that we have set the "age of consent" in the US between 16 and 18 years of age, varying by state. This means we do not believe a 13-year old is capable of deciding how they wish to use their body - in sexual terms. This child is considered not mentally competent to make such a decision.

But we consider him competent to decide to climb Everest? (emoticon for head-scratching and look of befuddlement)

I hope my thoughts above did not communicate that I encourage others (or myself) to engage in high risk activities for the sake of the risk involved. I hoped to communicate that many of the most wonderful and rewarding things in life, and especially in the outdoors, require that you take risk, facing your own fears and limitations. Our modern society holds up “safety” as paramount to virtually all other things, and our cultural structure is crafted to remove risk and even the slightest hint of it from our lives. In the areas that risk cannot be removed we go to great lengths to insulate ourselves psychologically so that things *seem* safe. Take airport security for example, any law enforcement or military personnel can tell you that it is a huge farce, and is more about making everyone FEEL safe than actually doing so. You cannot go into nature with these blinders on- not taking the risks seriously, bad things are likely to happen. No matter how experienced or familiar with the outdoors one becomes the wonder, fierce and terrible beauty of it never goes away. The more we interact with nature, the more profound it becomes. Not so in our everyday lives. That is what I mean when I was speaking of facing death. The very fact that death is a possibility is integral to the experience and why it is so rewarding. Safety is an illusion, which is not to say that we shouldn't be as responsible and safe as is prudent for the situation we find or place ourselves in. However, nothing worthwhile comes without risk. I for one am not going to live a sedate and sedentary life even though it can give the impression of being safer. So I go, I live, I experience, and I will know more wonder and fulfillment than most in this world.

As long as we're talking about teens on Everest, a 15-year-old, Parker Liautaud, just attempted to ski the last degree to the North Pole. He would have been "one of the youngest" to do so.

His expedition attempt, to raise awareness of climate change, ended the other day, unsuccessfully.


Your use of the term "facing death" conveys the idea that this is a prime motivation, a macho characteristic. A lot of people head out in to the woods and hills with that in mind, and with bravado and peer pressure in the group (often all males). Here are a couple of incidents I witnessed, one just a couple weeks ago and the other several years ago:

A couple weeks ago, I took a group of potential assistants to Pinnacles to review what and how we are going to teach adult scout leaders how to introduce their scouts to climbing and rappelling. During this, we go into proper anchoring, belaying, and rescue of someone who might panic on a climb or get a shirt or long hair stuck on a rappel. Prevention is, of course, the first step, which includes cutting the chain of small mistakes from developing into a disaster. While we were up on top of School Rock, we had various groups of casual hikers come by, some of whom wanted to just walk up on the top of the narrow spine of rock. In general we discouraged them from doing so, pointing out that it is easy to trip on the large crystals (Pinnacles rock is pegmatite, with many large, protruding, embedded crystals several inches in size), and to plunge to either side of the spine some 50 feet or more. More than one went up anyway, shouting to his or her companions to take photos, and how scary it was. Several ended up crawling back down the spine. One woman made a big show of forbidding her sons from going up there, then went up herself, crawling part way, standing and teetering, then crawling all the way back. Actually, I was somewhat worried about one of these people fiddling around with the rope anchors, though we had someone at the anchors watching them. The common theme of all these people was "facing death" and how brave they were in a scary situation.

A number ofl years back, I was in Mexico, assisting a friend who is a professional guide as an assistant guide. The trip was to attempt to ascend the 3 major Mexican volcanoes. Ricardo was contracted by a major international "ecotourism" or "adventure tours" group that shall remain unnamed. There were 6 clients, Ricardo as head guide, and one of his regular assistant guides and I as his assistants. For Popo and Ixta, we based at Paso de Cortez, at about 13,000 ft between the two peaks. The six were continually talking about the "Death Zone" and how we were now in the "Death Zone". The Death Zone actually is above 25,000 ft, an area where the air pressure (and partial pressure of oxygen in particular) is so low that humans cannot completely acclimatize. Thus while above that altitude, you are in effect slowly dying. Climbers spend time above that altitude only briefly. By the time we got onto Orizaba and were at a bit above 16,000 ft on our attempt, 3 of the 6 were clearly suffering from AMS (the three who, it turned out, were taking Diamox). Ricardo made the decision to turn the whole party back, and indeed the three needed help getting back down. In the end, we did not summit any of the three peaks. But at the dinner afterwards, the clients still were talking energetically about their time in the "Death Zone", despite not being above 16,500 on any of the 3 volcanoes, well below the 25,000 ft start of the Death Zone. Yes, people have died of HAPE and HACE, the extreme versions of AMS, on all three of the volcanoes. But this "confrontation with Death" was apparently the major source of thrill for these people.

In other words, in both cases, the primary motivation seems to have been "facing death". This attitude can and has result in death. Bravado is not enough. If that is the primary motivation, my opinion is that such people should not be out there. Yes, as I pointed out, there is risk out there, and there is risk in everyday life. But that is a poor reason to head into the wilderness. After all, just getting in the car and on the road has a risk of death or serious injury (the insurance companies statistics show that about half the US population gets into a serious car accident in their lifetimes). There is so much more to travel to remote places.

Planning, training, and attitude go a long way toward reducing the risk in anything in life. It can't be eliminated, of course. But with the right approach, even the risk for Everest can be greatly reduced.

This is a backcountry forum, so we can be expected to individually derive benefit from time in the backcountry. But in speaking of this lad's expedition I hear something different.

I for one am not going to live a sedate and sedentary life even though it can give the impression of being safer. So I go, I live, I experience, and I will know more wonder and fulfillment than most in this world.

I think in the eloquent words above, gonzan truly captured what many before have expressed on this and similar forums. It is probably what the child's father said to him about summiting Everest at age thirteen.

and it is a crock.

Does that child head for the mountain for what he can experience, or for what he hopes to gain in fame, adulation, or money? If it is for the experience, he doesn't need Everest; at thirteen challenges can be found anywhere - asking a girl to a dance is overwhelming for many : ) . It is not what circumstances befall you, but how you meet those circumstances that are of benefit.

I'll wager that Stephen Hawking has known more wonder and fulfillment than most in this world - despite his "sedate and sedentary life."

I mean no disrespect to anyone. I hope someday we can all find the wonder and fulfillment the world has to offer in the smallest things as well as the grandiose, the sandpile and the mountain.


Great discussion - I appreciate all the points of view.

A few quotes to chew on. From Jordan Romero:

"This may be the first of many attempts," Jordan said. "It could take a couple of years, but I am determined to do it. If I don't reach the summit this time, I will try next time."

From Todd Burleson, who has led several expeditions up Everest and many up other big mountains, and was part of the rescue effort in '96 when several climbers and clients died (chronicled in Into Thin Air). In other words, someone who knows better than most what this boy will encounter:

"What these kids are doing isn't necessarily a bad thing," Todd Burleson, of Alpine Ascents told The Times of London newspaper. "But as soon as you start burying kids on Everest, it's going to be a different story."


overmywaders and leadbelly,

I think you both touched on the important question, one which I pose to the Scout leaders in the High Adventure Training courses - "Who is this trip for, anyway?" Ignoring the bad grammar, is this for the youth going on the 50-miler? Or is it for the adult advisors? Or in the case of the 13 year old on Everest, is it for him, or for his father? Is his father playing the role of a "stage mother", basking in the glory of his son's achievements?

I saw an interview with the kid on a couple of news programs. What struck me was a feeling that his words had been dictated to him, and that he did not have a real feeling for what the challenges and risks are.

On the other hand, growing up in the middle of the Arizona desert, in a family that was in the outdoors all the time, and starting technical climbing at age 12, I do remember well what I felt about the wilderness and climbing. I was rarin' to meet the challenges, as we put it. I felt eager and ready. I knew there were risks, and what the risks were (and are). But I had been injured (put a nail through my foot while swimming in an irrigation canal, for example), and had a best friend die (in those days before child labor laws as they are now, he had been working at the airport to help load the "dust" into a crop duster, when one day after the last load, the pilot invited him and another kid, both 11 yo, to hop into the bin where the "dust" had been for a plane ride - both kids were killed and the pilot seriously injured in the plane crash - maybe it was better than the long-term effects of getting the pesticide into his lungs and clothes).

In retrospect, I really had no idea what the risks were and how to deal with them. In teaching kids to climb and taking them into the backcountry, I can see that kids of that age think they know. But permanent injuries and death really are not "real" to them.

I do not advocate "mollycoddling" kids. They have to be introduced to risks, make mistakes, and suffer consequences. But the risks can be mitigated - they do not have to result in serious injury or death, just enough in the way of bumps, bruises, sprains, and maybe a broken bone that heals correctly.

I have to agree with gonzan's comment about the illusion of a sedentary life being safer. Only one of my climbing partners has died in a climbing accident, though several other friends have. Far more have died in car accidents, several in driving home from climbing trips. Most climbers and backcountry skiers and travellers are well aware of the risks (you should be, or else you don't belong out there!). On the other hand, the couch potatoes who are living a "sedate and sedentary life" are, quite literally, in the old pilot's phrase "fat, dumb, and happy", unaware that they are clogging their arteries and sedating their brains (which current evidence indicates accelerates the onset of Alzheimer's) - in other words, the "sedate and sedentary life" is effectively a slow suicide.

we all know that there is no ironclad way to fully mitigate risk, and the people on these forums probably won't be satisfied with their outdoor experience confined to the tennis court or the golf course. There is a lot of real estate within the spectrum of Everest and the golf course, and people have to decide what is best for them. My brother nearly died in Nepal - not from a climbing accident, but from an unlucky encounter with a crosscut piece of bamboo that impaled his leg. If not for the sherpas who carried him out, the chopper pilot who ferried him to Katmandu, or the Canadian doctors who pumped him full of antibiotics to knock down the infection he got, he would have died. Yet he wasn't even trying for the Everest base camp. (note to self - pay for the travel insurance. my brother didn't, and emergency helicopter charters in Nepal are pricy).

An acquaintance of mine died in Tuckerman's ravine on a nice spring day; another driving home from a long day skiing in Vermont. i'm happy as a clam hiking in weather and conditions that a lot of people would view as an unacceptable level of risk - thirty below zero, 100 mph winds, white out conditions, or all of the above, on more than one occasion. you have to love new hampshire and upstate new york. anyway, the worst i have gotten is cold fingers and toes, and in the summer, some blisters, sunburn, and a bad case of poison oak. sure, i know enough to dress for conditions, turn around when conditions warrant it, and avoid places i think might be unsafe. but who is more at risk - me on my winter hikes and steep trails, or my spring-skiing friends, one heading home in his Volvo?

Just observing that everyone has their limits, and i'm not really in a position to evaluate this family's assessment of the risks. i have a day job in an office, his parents are 'adventure racers.' their family hikes are up big, high altitude mountains; mine are just a wee bit smaller. i trust that common sense will put safety ahead of the goal. ultimately, no matter what risks a parent is willing to accept, most parents do have that innate desire to keep their children out of harm's way, and simply being on a big mountain doesn't necessarily mean everyone is going to die.

"Its not the critic who counts..."

Two people decide to fight off a rapist. One survives, the other is murdered. With hindsight we can critique, based on the outcome, if they did right. We take your chances, and the rest is beyond control. The kid already summited McKinley and Kilimanjaro. He and his parents know better than us what he is ready for. I'm more worried about a child soldier toting an AK-47 in some third world backwater than a rich kid climbing a mtn. I propose that a kid drinking from a fetid pond in Kenya is at much more risk than this boy from Cali.

NO one, with their pages of comments, has said when exactly someone is ready for Everest. You ONLY know when you are ready after you arrive home alive after summiting, otherwise you are just guessing. Like T. Roosevelt said; the credit belongs to the man (or young man) in the arena. I know me and my kids and we could not do Everest in our dreams (I can't even afford to climb Ranier). My hat's off to anyone who has the huevos to try, no matter how unqualified I may think they are, its really not my call but I admire those who try.

To repeat my earlier comment, "Who is this trip for, anyway?" There is a question (which I cannot answer, since I have no personal acquaintance with the boy or his parents), raised several times in this thread, of whether the boy is mature enough at 13 to make a rational, fully reasoned judgment about his preparation, skills, the risks, and other factors, and of whether the parent(s) are seeing things clearly. A few years ago,shortly after the Ramsey killing, when there were a series of PBS and other programs about "stage mothers" and "child beauty queens". The little girls (barely more than babies in some cases) were (still are) being dressed and made up and paraded around, with a lot of the motivation being the mother living out her own dreams of a past or missed glory. I am not saying this is the case here, but raising the question.

One thing about living in Palo Alto is the push from overachieving parents on the one hand, and "educators" who are opposed to "competition" and kids being pushed before they are mature enough, on the other. In our case, Young Son, being in a family of scientists, learned to read by sitting on Mama's and Papa's laps while being read to. He learned basic arithmetic by playing number games. And he decided on his own, from watching Itzak Perlman playing violin on Sesame Street with kids taking Suzuki violin that he wanted to play violin. His kindergarten and 1stgrade teachers accused us of "forcing" him to learn these things, despite their clearly coming from the environment he was growing up in. On the other hand, there is no significant "life and limb" risk in such things, while there is in climbing Everest.

My personal history (repeated too many times here) was growing up in a small village on the reservation in the middle of the Arizona desert, plus getting inspired by the "conquest" of Everest, thus along with two buddies, starting technical rock climbing on our own with no adult guidance. Did we have the judgment or understanding of the risks? Definitely not! Can a kid learn to climb safely these days? Definitely yes, provided the instructors and mentors have been trained and have the experience to under the risks and safety precautions. Can a kid safely climb Everest? Yes, provided the guides and other members of the party fully understand the risks and are willing to be overly cautious and not push it just to set the "youngest ever" record.

I propose that a kid drinking from a fetid pond in Kenya is at much more risk than this boy from Cali.

NO one, with their pages of comments, has said when exactly someone is ready for Everest.

I am sure the kid in Kenya would choose a different water source if it was possible. As it is, his survival in part hinges on staying hydrated, while the kid from So Cal has no mortal need to climb a mountain.
As for when one is ready to climb.

You are ready to climb Everest when:

You understand the difference between being ON the mountain, and being WITH the mountain. Rare is the teenage Zen master monk. Likewise for mountaineers.

You have mastered the mind over matter challenge sufficiently, that no amount of suffering will extinguish your will to survive. Few teenagers have actively developed the discipline to blot out suffering. This takes incredible mental discipline, a dubious trait for a youthful mind, still undergoing a huge amount of development.

You are capable of functioning without sleep for protracted periods – days at a time. Bad weather and high altitude often team up to rob the climber of sleep for long periods. Lack of sleep is a primary cause of washout in ranks endeavoring to become military special forces. Surely you can’t tell me a thirteen year old is as tough as a Navy Seal?

You are as knowledgeable as your guide, whose main purpose is to deal with the logistics, and serve as a reality check to your own thought processes. If one reads enough about mountaineering mishaps, or does enough mountaineering themselves, they realize unforced errors are a significant factor contributing to climbing accidents. A guide cannot be there for your every movement; therefore your safety depends in part on your expertise and unrelenting focus. Simple momentary lapses have cost many a climber their life. Again I doubt this kid’s level of concentration is zen-like.

When summiting Everest is no longer on your list of Must-Do experiences. If you need to do it, you probably shouldn’t. Summit fever is a killer.

You are comfortable subjecting your loved one’s to your possible, pointless, demise, and they are ready to live with that outcome too. This is a selfish endeavor. If he is ok subjecting his mother to this specter before he is a grown man, that alone speaks volumes of his level of immaturity.

You understand you are a meek mortal spec, and no amount of skill will protect you from the most common causes of death on this mountain. Hmm, isn’t the conventional wisdom that youth’s fundamental flaw is an air of immortality? This kid and his mentors base his readiness on climbing (walking up) a couple of high volcanoes, and a mountain whose greatest dangers are the glaciers at its base. He is entering this challenge under false pretenses. His guardians only feed this delusion.

You have demonstrated the wisdom required to abort a trek, by aborting treks in other venues, under less dire circumstances. If he hasn’t been on an aborted trip(s) he may lack the psychology that enables pride to go before the fall. Many deaths on Everest were the result of those failing to remember the main objective is getting back alive, preferably with all your fingers and toes.

When you are at least as old as the youngest sherpa regularly employed to provide high altitude support of Himalayan expeditions. If the locals have reason to preclude their own children from working high on these mountains, perhaps they know something we don’t…


There is no tidy answer to when one is ready to climb, but rest assured if you fall short of the above criteria you should reconsider your motives and priorities, or at least get more experience under your belt. I am sure others can add to this list. I too applaud those who seek a challenge from life, but I also don’t suffer fools kindly. IMHO only fools would let a thirteen year old set foot anywhere higher than Base Camp on Everest.



You just don't understand - Adolescent males are invulnerable, immortal, and omniscient. Just ask them. ("omniscient" = "know it all" - as Mark Twain famously wrote, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished by how much he'd learned in seven years.”)

You always have the perfect literary refrain, and you demonstrate wisdom of a man many years your senior ;)

ummm, Ed, at this point, there are very few men and few women who are many years my senior. And that number decreases with every passing moment.

For what it's worth, the boy and his climbing team passed 17,000 feet yesterday (right around where the North side/Tibet base camp is), on the way to establishing an intermediate base camp at 18,900 feet. Acclimatizing for a May summit attempt, I assume.

Lots of opinions flying around but has anybody spoken with this boy or his parents?Since none of use probably have we really dont know much about any of this event.Now this is only how i see it but i wish my folks had this sense of adventure when i was growing up.I do wish all involved well and do hope he finds success on the mountain.Arm chair mountaineering,not from all involved in this conversation,can really stfile ones creativety.ymmv


There isn't success on that mountain. Like any other challenge, it can only give you what you either already have internally, or something fleeting that only fools crave.

If the child was climbing that mountain to satisfy his own uncertainties about himself, we would never have heard of it; he would have just done it... or not.

When my son was thirteen, as active and crazy as any that age, he discovered the following poem and memorized it... just because. I've seen him live the poem all his life. That is success, and no mountains are required.


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

Rudyard Kipling


Bill S.
I know (nod, wink). The references through out our posts date all orf us. That makes you one of our wisest, right? And if I was such a party animal in my youth I wouldn't be too far behind. They say wisdom comes with age. They also said I was an ass in my youth, so now they say I am a wise ass!

Extreme hypoxia, as found on Mt.Everest, can and has caused brain damage. A 13 year old with a developing brain may be more susceptible to hypoxia. Supplemental oxygen may reduce the risk of damage but to some degree supplemental oxygen diminishes the achievement of climbing Mt.Everest.

Overall a 13 year old on Mt.Everest is a bad idea.

Cheers, Keith, Telluride, Everest summit, 1993

Some teenagers do exhibit judgment. The headline is a bit misleading. The 16 year old girl is not abandoning the attempt to solo around the world, but is putting in to port for repair/replacement of the autopilot system, then continuing. This does mean it will not be a non-stop voyage. Maybe in this case, I should say "young woman" instead of "girl". Hmmm, fewer than 250 people have done it. That's less than have summited Everest.

I've read the articles and the comments, and I hope nothing but the best for the young man, but I can't get past an idea that's stuck in my head, that of media starved parents trying to set up a kid for a reality TV show. I hope I'm wrong, but for some reason ......

I know he's not out of the woods until he reaches base camp, but looks like Jordan Romero did it:

13-Year Old Is Youngest To Top Everest (New York Times)

I do hope he and the rest of his team make it back down safely.

I do hope he and the rest of his team make it back down safely.


looks like they hit a window of bearable weather - for everest, anyway. probably -15 to -20 fahrenheit, winds at 40 mph or less.

pretty amazing. i'm sticking to day hikes and short overnights with my kids nonetheless.

I just found out that the kid is headed for Mt Vinson at the same time I will be there. Hopefully, there won't be a media circus

Bill, I love how you can mention Antarctica so nonchalantly. =)

I hereby nominate Bill for position of One-Man Media Circus!

I hereby nominate Bill for position of One-Man Media Circus!

Only if Trailspace is willing to spring for the Iridium phone and pay for the digital charges to do the blog (turns out the digital rate is much much lower than the voice rate, but still mucho bucks!). Then my acronym would have to be OMIA (Our Man In Antarctica) instead of OGBO (Old GreyBearded One).

tommangan said:

I hereby nominate Bill for position of One-Man Media Circus!

Then my acronym would have to be OMIA (Our Man In Antarctica) instead of OGBO (Old GreyBearded One).

You can still be Our Man In Antarctica, Bill. But, it won't involve me buying you new electronics or transforming you into a member of the climbing paparazzi.

I know many of us will be eager to hear your further Antarctic tales once you're back though.

Well I'm glad to hear the climb ended well, I have no way to relate completely since I have never attempted anything similar.

I do know how it feels to push yourself hard under duress, and in less than favorable conditions, and what it feels like to stand up and know that you did it!

So kudos!

Some teenagers do exhibit judgment. The headline is a bit misleading. The 16 year old girl is not abandoning the attempt to solo around the world, but is putting in to port for repair/replacement of the autopilot system, then continuing. This does mean it will not be a non-stop voyage. Maybe in this case, I should say "young woman" instead of "girl". Hmmm, fewer than 250 people have done it. That's less than have summited Everest.

Unfortunately today’s news has Abby in trouble again, this time in a remote section of the Indian Ocean, with the nearest surface vessel perhaps forty hours away. I hope luck is with her, and she escapes this latest brush.


Unfortunately today’s news has Abby in trouble again, this time in a remote section of the Indian Ocean, with the nearest surface vessel perhaps forty hours away.

It appears Abby has nine lives.


While at the OR Show, I happened to run into Justin Romero, or rather had him pointed out to me. Good grief! The "kid" is taller than I am and significantly heavier! (I was within 6 or 7 feet of him when he was pointed out). And I suspect stronger. If you had asked me without telling me who he was (and then spotting his show badge), I would have guessed him to be 17 or 18. He is an example of how kids today are maturing physically (though not mentally) at younger and younger ages. There was an article in the past week about how girls are entering puberty younger than ever, some as young as 8, with the average age in the US being before reaching their 10th birthday. Then again, even when I was a Scoutmaster, a number of the 15 and 16 yo boys were needing size 12 to 15 boots.

Yes, I know, physical maturity does not mean mental or emotional maturity.

He is obviously plugged together........ Is there a fault in that? Maybe some kind of jealousy?

I needed size 12 boots at 14 as well, and was 6' 3" but it sure don't make me special.

I do not get your point............ Hell, Im 51........... So am in the Neanderthal time line? Could be I guess.

My mom never bought wonder bread so do not blame it on that.

November 25, 2020
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