What Do Climbers Think of a 12-Year-Old on Everest?

A California kid’s plan to attempt the highest mountain in the world is raising concern among some in the alpine community

Apr 7, 2016
Outside Magazine

Established climbers and mountaineers have spoken up about what they think of kids on Everest.    Photo: Justin Bastien

Back in the fall, we learned that Californian Tyler Armstrong, then 11 years old, was planning to take on Everest this spring, after his twelfth birthday. If he was given permission to climb, and if he were to make the summit, he’d be the youngest person to ascend the world’s highest peak.

It seems like everyone who’s written or spoken about Armstrong’s proposition since has expressed serious concerns about the kid’s abilities and motivations, his parents’ judgment, and the many ways Everest has taken down experienced, full-grown mountaineers in the past.

When we asked Armstrong why he’s doing this, he said simply, "I like pushing myself and I like to be different from other kids. I think I can push myself and be the youngest to do the Seven Summits.” He’s already ticked off Aconcagua (South America), Kilimanjaro (Africa), and Mount Elbrus (Europe). Everest would be number four. 

As Armstrong plans his trip, established climbers and mountaineers have spoken up about what they think of his idea. Here’s what a few of them are saying: 

Jon Krakauer

In the fall, Krakauer spoke to Armstrong on HuffPo Live.

I would say you need to really look at what you’re doing and why. Climbing Mount Everest was the biggest mistake I ever made in my life. I wish I’d never gone…You should be willing to turn around, if you need to. I’m not saying don’t do it. I think, at your age, I would urge you to climb Denali first. You’ve climbed Aconcagua—Denali will give you a better taste of what Everest is like. I’m the last person who should tell people not to do crazy shit. But think twice about it.

Alex Honnold

The soloist took to Facebook earlier this week when he learned about Armstrong’s plan.

Kids climbing Everest?!? …It does sort of raise interesting questions about whether or not it's acceptable for kids undertake such risky endeavors. I'm all for people making their own choices in life but I'm just not sure if a 12 year old can quite make informed decisions about that kind of thing yet.

Matt Moniz

The 17-year-old alpinist from Colorado was planning to climb Everest last year and ski down the Lhotse face—but then the earthquake derailed his plans. During a phone call with Outside on Wednesday, Moniz relayed some advice to Armstrong.

I would tell him that Everst isn’t going anywhere. After I climbed Makalu and Cho Oyu, I realized that climbing isn’t about just climbing the Seven Summits. I’ve realized there are a lot more peaks that Everest. If Tyler were to ask me for advice, I’d say, start on Denali, then do an 8,000-meter peak. In my opinion, it would be more beneficial to have experience on a glaciated peak and to test your limits at high altitude before Everest. Aconcagua is high, but it’s significantly lower than Everest or another 8,000-meter peak. I’d tell him that there’s no rush. He’ll only get stronger and more experienced and, in my opinion, enjoy it even more with more experience. I think it’s a little early for him.

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