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 image from 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? 

Jake Norton is an Everest climber, guide, photographer, writer, and motivational speaker from Colorado.

  1. Jeff Bergstedt
    Jeff BergstedtNovember 8,10

    I have a son who is 7 years old. As an adult, I’d really fallen in to the hum-drum of every day adult life, with nothing really important or passionate in my life…nothing imaginitive going on. Somewhere along the way of growing up many of us “outgrow” dreaming.

    My son changed that for me. As I’d sit and play with him at a younger age, his imaginiation running untamed, it struck me that I probably used to be that way. It sparked me, and my passion began to develop around mountaineering and climbing when I saw an episode of “Everest: Beyond The Limit”.

    So it’s of no surprise to me that a 13 or 10 year old would want to do this. Children that age really haven’t “lost the dream”. It’s probably even more prevelant in children that have parents who are passionate about something themselves (side note: I don’t seem to remember my parent being passionate about anything).

    So, I’m torn. Part of me thinks… Heck Yeah! If they have the skill, let them make a run at it! Adn then, of course… Heck No! What if they ended up somewhere on their own on Everest because of a tragedy. So many things can and do go wrong up there.

    My feelings on being the youngest or fastest or oldest or “whatEverest”: STUPID! It’s no less of an accomplishment to be a little slower, older, younger, whateverer…I mean, really. Fame and fortune are fleeting at best, and come with more problems than you’ll usually find even on a mountain like Everest.

  2. Jake Norton
    Jake NortonNovember 8,10

    Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for the great comment and thoughts…and for the new term for me: “WhatEVEREST” – love it!

    Anyway, I agree with you. Definitely do not want to hinder a kid from dreaming, and dreaming BIG. In fact, that’s exactly how I got into climbing in the first place: hearing a talk by Lou Whittaker in 1982 about his Everest expedition that year. I dreamt of Everest, and, with help from my family, learned to climb, became a guide, worked my way through the ranks, and 15 years later finally made it to Everest for my first time.

    So, I guess I’m of 2 mindsets here: I want to encourage all kids to dream big in their lives…and pursue those dreams. (It’s what I’m trying to instill in my 2 kids all the time.) But, at the same time, I also want to encourage them to do things for the right reasons; to value the journey over the destination; to make the right decisions – or at least try to – even when there is a lot on the line (i.e. fame and fortune).

    I also think it’s not a bad thing to climb the ladder so to speak, to work your way up to Everest through the traditional channels, rather than jumping headlong into climbing and racing toward the high point.

    Anyway, lots of good thoughts you bring up here. I’ll be eager to hear thoughts from others, too!



  3. Mount Everest
    Mount EverestNovember 9,10

    I have mixed feelings about this. I feel that this young boy is being dragged into it because his father is a famous climber who thinks the ‘record’ should belong to his country. Has this boy had his chance to say anything? Maybe he dosent really want to climb Everest but is doing so because of all the pressure etc.

    I think its great that many youngesters are getting out and about more rather than sitting at home watching TV or playing computer games. But is Mount Everest really a good place for them to be? I have no kids but if I did, even with my love and fascination I have for Everest and its climbers, I would not let him any higher than base camp!

    Mount Everest The British Story

  4. Jake Norton
    Jake NortonNovember 9,10

    TypePad HTML Email

    Thanks for the comment, Colin. Good points you raise…Hard to
    say what Tseten thinks or wants in this situation, but I can only imagine there's
    at least some pressure coming from his Dad.
    As I mentioned in my post, I love seeing kids aiming for the
    stars in life and dreaming big, but there's no need to rush or be pressured
    into things – especially dangerous ones. Hopefully this age race will be but a
    brief chapter in Everest history!
    All my best,

    From: TypePad

Leave a Reply to Jake Norton Click here to cancel reply.