What do you do when you’re 15 years old and you’ve already climbed the highest mountain on every continent? If you’re Jordan Romero, you launch a nationwide campaign to scale the tallest summits in all 50 states—and inspire other kids to chase their own dreams.
Last December, Jordan became the youngest person to climb the Seven Summits when he topped out on Antarctica’s Mount Vinson Massif. It was the end of a six-year quest that had started when he summited Mount Kilimanjaro—at 10. But for Jordan’s Find Your Own Everest (FYE) tour, which launched this summer in New England, it’s only the beginning.
Compared to the hypoxic heights of the Himalaya, the Appalachian Mountains aren’t exactly extreme—but as Jordan discovered in late June, the weather can be. FYE kicked off in Maine with a rain-soaked ascent of Mount Katahdin, which he called “a big wet beast.” From there, it was on to New Hampshire’s notorious Mount Washington for more “wicked weather.” Since then, he’s hopscotched to Utah for a semi-technical ascent of 13,528-foot Kings Peak, which he describes as a “42-kilometer, 23-hour trail run”—and the second-toughest U.S. peak he's climbed to date. (Denali, which he knocked off at age 11, was tougher than even Everest. Says Jordan, "The death rate is higher, and the Alaskan wilderness is unforgiving.") Just last week, he caught some early season snow on 13,161-foot Wheeler Peak here in New Mexico, met with kids at the Taos Cyber Magnet School, then swung by the Outside office to say hello—all in one day.
On easier, non-technical ascents, Jordan invites kids to climb with him, and off the mountain, he visits local schools to speak to students about setting goals and achieving them. “I tell them to bring a 3x5 note card to the presentation, and by the end we have them write down their goals,” says Jordan. “Then we tell them to hold onto it and bring it home to share it with their parents and teachers, anyone who will support them. I tell them anything is possible. You’ve just got to aim high and work for it.
"The mountains are a great analogy for setting goals," he continues. "My big one was the Seven Summits, but that goal is huge and sometimes it just feels too big, so I think of just the individual mountains. And then even a single mountain—like Everest—can feel too big. So you break that down into smaller steps. Just get to Camp 1, Camp 2. Every goal can be broken down into small steps. Don't lose sight of the BIG goal, but don't be overwhelmed by it either."
So far Jordan’s ticked off 14 states on the list, but tour dates are a moving target, on account of one pesky detail: school. Jordan’s a junior at Big Bear High in Big Bear Lake, California, where he lives with his family (his dad’s an accomplished adventure racer). By spring, he hopes to switch back to independent study, like he did when he was 13 and spent two months in Nepal climbing Mount Everest. That’ll give him more freedom to ski, ride his mountain bike, and climb more mountains here at home.
Not that he’s in a rush. “I tell kids to make their goals anything that takes days, weeks, or years,” says Jordan. “"Goals don't have age limits. Make your goal big and remember your goal can be anything. But the longer you have to work hard at something, the more rewarding it is in the end.”