Age 10 on Everest…And So it Begins. What do you think?
Last spring, the world press was aflutter with news of 13 year old Jordan Romero's successful summit of Everest via the Northeast Ridge. And well they should have been: Romero's accomplishment was quite impressive, showing dedication, maturity, and humility not often seen in a young teenager.
My fear after Jordan's success has always been that rather than simply inspiring kids (and adults) to turn off the X-Box, get off the couch, and get outside, it would also spark a new – and potential disastrous – race to get the youngest kid to the Top of the World.
And, sure enough, it's happening now, with Pemba Dorje Sherpa – a highly accomplished climber from Nepal – hoping his son, Tseten Sherpa, will stand on top next year at age 10. Pemba is currently seeking a variance on Nepal's prohibition of anyone under 16 climbing Everest, although tourism minister Baburam Bhandari has said the government will not grant a permit to Pemba and Tseten.
Like Romero before him, I don't doubt that Tseten is a strong, skilled, capable young boy, and climbing Everest might indeed be within his ability. And, with justifiable national pride, his father noted: "'I think all the Everest records should be held by Nepalese people." While that may be true, I can't help but wonder what young Tseten thinks.
Does he really want to climb Everest, or is the concept of national and international fame – and possible fortune – buoying his enthusiasm?
Can a 10 year old – or a 13 year old for that matter – truly be ready for all the challenges one faces above 8000 meters?
We see bad decisions play out on Everest year after year, with people getting hurt or dying, often as a result of pushing beyond their limits in pursuit of some epiphany they see residing in the summit snows. Is it right to put young people in a position where even adults have trouble making sound decisions?
And, ultimately, do all these records really matter? What I admire about Jordan Romero is not that he stood on the summit of Everest, but rather the journey of challenge and self-discovery that took him there.
What are your thoughts? Should kids be climbing Everest?