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Backpacker Magazine – September 2009

Higher Education: Should 13-Year-Old Jordan Romero Climb Everest?

Romero climbed Denali at 11 and has bagged five of the Seven Summits. He hopes to climb Everest in 2010, but is mountain climbing good for a growing kid?

by: Berne Broudy, Photos by Kevin Zacher

13-year-old Jordan Romero (center) with two friends.
13-year-old Jordan Romero (center) with two friends.
Jordan, 11, on top of Aconcagua.
Jordan, 11, on top of Aconcagua.
Ice axes and an Everest poster adorn Jordan's bedroom.
Ice axes and an Everest poster adorn Jordan's bedroom.
A dirt road becomes a luge course.
A dirt road becomes a luge course.
Jordan, 10, on Russia's Mt. Elbrus.
Jordan, 10, on Russia's Mt. Elbrus.
Jordan spies on his dad at home in Big Bear, CA.
Jordan spies on his dad at home in Big Bear, CA.

Not all observers react to Jordan's quest with Judge Galera's enthusiasm. Like the bureaucrats who imposed the age restriction on Aconcagua climbers, some critics suggest that kids shouldn't be climbing mountains. Anonymous online commenters have accused Paul of everything from child abuse to using Jordan to secure sponsorship money. Jerome Brodlie, a child psychologist and chairman of the Department of Psychology at Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut, states unequivocally, "This sounds like a ridiculous idea, obviously created by an overachievement-oriented parent. No 10-year-old can put into perspective the concept of climbing the world's highest mountains."

Brent Bishop, a two-time Everest climber whose own father summitted in 1963, says, "I have a 13-year-old son who is an exceptional athlete. I took him to the Khumbu region–but we turned around before basecamp [17,600 feet]. Not because he couldn't hack it, but because I don't believe it's right to put that stress on his body. In early puberty, a child's brain is still forming, not to mention the rest of his body."

"They [critics] have dragged us over the coals," says Paul. "Some of the criticism is completely ill-informed; some of it you laugh about. I've taken it to heart, and have done some serious soul-searching. I'm a dad, I'm human. But when I think about what Jordan wants to do with life and that all this is molding him to be a super-amazing young man, it inspires me. In the end, we feel rock-solid about what we're doing. As long as Jordan keeps his vision going, we're along for the ride 100 percent. We always have the option to turn around. And along the way, being safe is our priority."

And really, why shouldn't kids climb mountains? Better that they stay home and join the nearly 20 percent of American youth who risk premature death because of obesity? Plus, there are intangible benefits. Emma Burrous, a clinical psychologist at the University of Vermont, says, "As long as the needs of the whole child are being attended to, projects that fuel and support his emerging sense of self and sense of competence can be extremely valuable to his growth and development."

Nevertheless, skeptical adults–more than blizzards or steep ice–could thwart Jordan's attempt to complete the Seven Summits. When team Romero arrives at the gateway of Aconcagua Provincial Park to pick up Jordan's permit, as the court directed, the ranger says flatly, "Ah, yes, we've been waiting for you. We're not awarding you a permit. We are not subject to the courts, and we will not permit anyone under 14 years of age to climb the mountain."

Paul attempts to negotiate, unsuccessfully, then calls Argumedo, the lawyer. But even he can't sway the head ranger. Eventually, the local park-service chief arrives, and he and Argumedo disappear behind closed doors, with the lawyer toting the manila folder. The boss thumbs deliberately through all 150 pages. Finally he calls Jordan in, shakes his hand, and grants the permit.

Paul, Karen, and Jordan load their gear in a van for the five-hour ride into the park, eventually emerging in a dusty parking lot flanked by yellow rock walls. The canyon forms a natural gate, and here all climbers must present their permits before continuing to the trailhead. Inevitably, almost comically (if they hadn't spent so much money to get here), the ranger looks at Jordan, at his permit, back at Jordan, and says, "We heard you were coming. You are too young to proceed. This permit is not valid."

Again, Paul calls the lawyer, who calls the park service in Mendoza. Another heated conversation ensues. The result: Jordan cannot proceed until a park-sanctioned doctor examines him. The doctor will not arrive for another three hours. The Romeros had planned to rendezvous with the rest of their nine-person team–including The North Face athlete and videographer John Griber, who'd been hired to shoot Jordan's ascent–at basecamp that night, but they can only sit stoically on their backpacks and wait. The doctor arrives at 6 p.m. He taps Jordan on the back, takes his pulse, asks him to cough, insists he check in with the rangers along the way, and waves them on.



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READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Steve
Feb 20, 2014

He sure is somthing different

Star Star Star Star Star
alex
Feb 20, 2014

Great job you really took my breath away!!!!!! <3

Star Star Star Star Star
Alexandria
Feb 20, 2014

i think he did and awesome and i think alot of things could go wrong but i just think i loved the way he set his mind to something really encouraged others to do what they set their minds to.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Star Star Star Star Star
Annika
Feb 20, 2014

i know that you guys may not like what Jordans parents let him do but he set his mind oto what he whanted and he went for it and i know it was the wrong thing to do by letting a 13 year old bot do this but it was kind of herofic and he really encourage me to do set my mind to something and never let it go!!!!!! <3

Star
Kharmon
Feb 20, 2014

Star Star Star Star Star
Eric
Feb 20, 2014

That boy is amazing I wish he was my son.
He would have his friend with him all the time.

Star Star Star Star Star
Eric
Feb 20, 2014

How are they going to let a 13 year old climb mount everest.some thing wrong with their parents!!!!!!!

Star Star Star Star Star
Eric
Feb 20, 2014

How are they going to let a 13 year old climb mount everest.some thing wrong with their parents!!!!!!!

Star Star Star Star Star
Eric
Feb 20, 2014

How are they going to let a 13 year old climb mount everest.some thing wrong with their parents!!!!!!!

Star Star Star Star Star
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Gary
Feb 26, 2013

Sure he can do it ! So long as he is essentially Guided and fed along with an M.D. on the "Expedition". And... the weather and Mountain conditions are faultless ! Obviously he can't have the years of High Mountain experience one should have to even think about for even some of the "Lower" Himalayan peaks. A 13 yr. old doesn't have the psychological or physical maturity to be on an 8K Meter Peak to do anything SAFELY ! As far as the comment about "Dick Bass", also think about Beck Weathers, M.D. !
.

Ben
Jan 14, 2012

I'm curious as to how Jordan has been able to miss so much school.

EDward
Oct 18, 2011

hey ye guys

Adam Still
Sep 28, 2010

I read a comment by his father which noted he doesn't pay attention to the critics. It is obviously another way to not face the irresponsible choice he made towards his son. The planet is filled with an unspeakable amount of adventures that 7 lifetimes will not fill. Was taking his son on a definite roulette wheel outcome override those? Canyons, caves, the wild fields of Northern regions, Antarctica, the sea floor, ballooning Africa, kayaking miles of coast, sand dunes of the Gobi,etc, whatever.

Was such a strong risk that necessary so fast? I regret my offering the thought, but his son is what dreams are made of, but Paul's are what nightmares are brought forth from. He deserved to lose his son, and live through the greed of his decision.

For Jordan, thank the air we breath for his safe return. Mounatineer, adventure racer and high altitude medical specialist?? Can you tuck your son under your arm and fly from the death dealing situation like Superman? Your accomplishments don't mean anything compared to your job to be an outcome balancing parent.

You are lucky you made it and can gloat. You would have gone down in history as the worst parent on the globe if the scenario turned out like it has for so many more worthy and skilled than you.

Bizarre
Sep 28, 2010

Taking a chance on his son losing his life to uncontrollable conditions is what was shameful. The kid is rock solid, but even the best will not endure the worst the mountain may offer. It's like taking your child up in a plane that may become unable to control and crash, or may not. This based on a plane of that nature, which Everest is. It's not all skill that brings you home up there. A grand majority is luck.

I think it was awesome, but it was a specifically SELFISH parental risk. He could have done Everest as he grew and had a chance to see a bit more in this world. I guess the idea that "my son would be the first" was just a little to good to pass up. Hey what the F, roll the dice, I either lose him or I'm, oops, we're famous....

Bizarre
Sep 28, 2010

Taking a chance on his son losing his life to uncontrollable conditions is what was shameful. The kid is rock solid, but even the best will not endure the worst the mountain may offer. It's like taking your child up in a plane that may become unable to control and crash, or may not. This based on a plane of that nature, which Everest is. It's not all skill that brings you home up there. A grand majority is luck.

I think it was awesome, but it was a specifically SELFISH parental risk. He could have done Everest as he grew and had a chance to see a bit more in this world. I guess the idea that "my son would be the first" was just a little to good to pass up. Hey what the F, roll the dice, I either lose him or I'm, oops, we're famous....

Bizarre
Sep 28, 2010

Taking a chance on his son losing his life to uncontrollable conditions is what was shameful. The kid is rock solid, but even the best will not endure the worst the mountain may offer. It's like taking your child up in a plane that may become unable to control and crash, or may not. This based on a plane of that nature, which Everest is. It's not all skill that brings you home up there. A grand majority is luck.

I think it was awesome, but it was a specifically SELFISH parental risk. He could have done Everest as he grew and had a chance to see a bit more in this world. I guess the idea that "my son would be the first" was just a little to good to pass up. Hey what the F, roll the dice, I either lose him or I'm, oops, we're famous....

Gwen
Jun 19, 2010

I was lucky enough to read an advanced review copy of Jordan Romero's book, THE BOY WHO CONQUERED EVEREST, which comes out this month.
It's a surprisingly sweet story for younger kids. No boasting or bragging; just a nice story with lots of photos from Jordan's climbing journeys. And yes, it IS inspiring!

Sierra
May 27, 2010

also..how many 13 years olds have the will and attention and WANT to go through classes and training..he has guts

Sierra
May 27, 2010

let him do what he wants and loves..shit.i mean if i was his parents id b thrilled..i mean how many thirteen year olds do YOU know who can do that..slim to none..

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