Sunday, April 11, 2010

American teen aims for Everest record

KATHMANDU — Scores of climbers will attempt to reach the summit of Mount Everest during the brief climbing season this May, but Jordan Romero is probably the only one who has brought his algebra homework.

If he succeeds, the 13-year-old from Big Bear, California, will be the youngest person ever to stand on the world's highest peak -- an ambition he has harboured since he saw a mural of the mountain at school, aged just nine.

"I do feel a bit nervous, but I'm way more excited," Jordan told AFP in Kathmandu on Sunday before starting his journey to Everest Base Camp.

"It's something I've always wanted to do before I die -- I just happen to be doing it at this age. I happen to be going for a world record. But I just want to climb it."

Jordan, who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya aged 10, is also hoping to become the youngest person ever to climb the highest mountains on all seven continents -- with Everest the final hurdle.

From Kathmandu, he and his father and stepmother -- both keen climbers -- will drive over the border to Tibet, from where they will attempt to climb the 8,848-metre (29,029-foot) peak via the north-east ridge.

To prepare, Jordan has been training hard for the past year, climbing the mountains of his native California carrying a heavy back pack and sleeping in a specially created tent that simulates the effects of altitude.

The decision to allow a child to climb a mountain that has claimed the lives of many adult mountaineers has sparked criticism, with some observers saying Jordan is too young to assess the risks.

But he defends the decision, saying he has a strong support team and will turn back rather than taking any unnecessary risks.

The team will spend several weeks acclimatising in Tibet before making their attempt on the summit between May 15 and May 25, when the weather is typically at its best on the mountain.

In the meantime, Jordan has stocked up on movies and has plenty of school work to keep him occupied.

"I'm on independent study while I'm here, so I'll be writing a journal every day," he says.

"I have to read some books and do some book reports. And I have a big stack of algebra to get through."

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