“Hello Mum. I’m calling from the top of the world.” These were the words of 13-year- old Jordan Romero. He was calling home via a satellite phone before descending to the Chinese Everest Base Camp, trekking down the treacherous North Col route, and into the history books as the youngest climber ever to have successfully climbed Mount Everest (8,848 metres).
Jordan’s youth record on the world’s highest mountain was not only historic, but controversial, with some experienced mountaineers and doctors suggesting that it was irresponsible to risk the safety of someone so young. In fact, Jordan’s tender age meant a change in the Romero team’s planned ascent of the mountain, since Nepal does not permit climbers under the age of 16 to make a bid for the summit. For this reason, their itinerary involved driving from Kathmandu out of Nepal and round to the Tibetan Everest Base Camp, trekking from the Chinese side of Everest up the Northeast ridge. It’s a more difficult approach than the route up from Nepal via the Southeast ridge.
The Tibetan and Nepalese routes to Everest are quite different in character. The staging area on the Nepalese South face of Everest, which has hosted the greater share of successful summit teams, is the climax of the popular Everest Base Camp Trekking route. At 5,360 metres, it is only accessible on foot, and trekkers arriving here in the climbing season are rewarded by a spectacular scene. The camp sits on the Khumbu glacier, nestled in the cauldron formed by the surrounding mountains of Nuptse (7,861 m), Pumori, and Lintgren, with Everest towering above them.
The Tibetan side of Mount Everest faces North, and falls within the borders of China. At an altitude of 5,180 metres, the Everest Base Camp on this side is relatively more accessible than its Nepalese equivalent, and can be reached with 4×4 vehicles via a rough, gravel road. Approaching by car this way somewhat detracts from the adventurous spirit of visiting Everest, as does the modest hotel located here. Although the Tibetan camp cannot compete with the romance and rugged appeal that the Nepal camp has in abundance, the view of Mount Everest from the North is striking nonetheless, with the mountain rising majestically at the end of a long, straight valley cut by the Rongbuk glacier.
It is this view that greeted the Romero team of six mountaineers, as they began their trek towards the Northeast ridge. The team comprised three Sherpa guides, Jordan, his father, and his stepmother, all experienced climbers.
On May 19th 2010, the support team received a garbled message by satellite phone. Over the crackle, Team Romero were able to report that they had moved to Camp 1, more than two thousand metres above Everest Base Camp, trekking into high winds. These winds forced them to delay a while, and wait for the weather to ease. Despite this, two days later they were ahead of schedule, stopping at Camp 3 only long enough to collect replacement oxygen bottles.
On May 22nd, with light snow falling, Jordan and his family reached the summit.
Their progress up the mountain was followed closely from the ground, and Jordan’s messages relayed to his website. The site depicted Jordan’s progress using a GPS tracker, which plotted his altitude and whereabouts on a map of Everest. The website invited Jordan’s online followers and sponsors to join the team around Everest Base Camp, trekking and get close the action as the team made history.
Despite the drama and his magnificent achievement, Mount Everest will not be the climax of Jordan’s mountaineering career. He hopes to keep Team Jordan together for a trek in the coldest place on Earth, Antarctica, and a bid for another youth record, this time for the Seven Summits accolade. It means reaching the summit of the highest peak in each of the world’s seven continents, and Jordan has already climbed six of these. The Vinson Massif (4,892 m) is last on his list.
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