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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.

Jordan Romero was not born with a silver ice axe in hand. Neither of his parents were extraordinarily wealthy or climbed seriously (they did backpack and camp with him starting when he was just a few months old). What Jordan really loved, like many 9-year-old boys, were reptiles. He filled terrariums with gopher snakes, rosy boas, bearded dragons, horny toads, and a host of other cold-blooded creatures. He liked to rattle off the details of their physiology, dietary habits, natural habitat, and social behaviors. He filled journals with scientific facts and figures. He dressed like Steve Irwin and tracked The Crocodile Hunter's progress around the globe. He approached his hobby with such zeal that his dad called him "little Rain Man."

Then one day in 2005, when Jordan was 9 years old, he saw a mural of the Seven Summits painted by fifth graders at his elementary school–and proclaimed his plan to climb them all. Immediately.

"I don't remember exactly what captivated me about that mural. But it made me want to do research, to learn more," says Jordan when I visit him at his home in Big Bear, California. "It was exotic, and for some reason I was fascinated by the elevation of each peak nested inside the others, getting higher and higher." So he climbed into his dad's car after school and announced his decision. "Dad's mouth was kind of hanging open when I told him. I was an outdoor kid and played soccer and baseball, but at that point, I wasn't that much of a hiker."

Most parents would have brushed off Jordan's request–That's nice, honey, Everest will still be there when you grow up–but not Paul. "I know it's hard to believe, but after a moment of shock and surprise, we just took it in stride," says Jordan's sinewy 39-year-old dad. He explains that he simply refuses to impose limitations that could restrict Jordan from realizing his full potential. "My parental philosophy has been to set the stage for Jordan to develop into the man he wants to be, and to foster his growth physically, mentally, and spiritually. We gave him the big vision of the world through travel; he developed his own passion for nature; and climbing mountains is the place where those two interests met. It's been magical ever since."

That's not to say Paul was blind to the challenges of the Seven Summits. But instead of treating Jordan like a kid, he explained the hardships of mountain climbing to him. "We tried to scare the shit out of him," recalls Paul. "We laid out the pain, suffering, and danger–plus the training, the fundraising, the planning, learning, and sacrifice–as well as the rewards. And Jordan said he wanted to go for it."

Jordan approached the project with the same intensity he brought to reptiles. He researched each summit's climbing history and geographic and geological details. He memorized names, heights, and the stories of mountaineers who'd made noteworthy climbs.

"I wanted to be super-prepared, to know everything I could about where we were going," recalls Jordan. "I trained for a whole year. I remember the first hike in the woods behind our house. I had a pack on, and I was gasping for air."



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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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