Mountaineering: Someone Get the Bouncers

Outside magazine, October 1995


Mountaineering: Someone Get the Bouncers
By Todd Balf (with John Alderman)


For better or for worse, 12-year-old Merrick Johnston is the youngest person ever to have reached the summit of Mount McKinley. The Anchorage sixth-grader and her mother, Jennifer Johnston, summited on June 23, becoming the first recorded mother-daughter team to do so. The younger Johnston's widely publicized achievement one-upped that of the Tiffany Hanson, a Talkeetna 15-year-old who summited on June 19 with her father, but it wasn't cheered in all corners. According to Denali National Park chief mountaineering ranger J. D. Swed, five kids under age 14 attempted McKinley this season--which in his view was five more than should have been on the mountain. "Kids that age aren't psychologically ready to deal with emergencies," he says. "And they're not strong enough to help someone else out of a crevasse." For the record, the Johnstons spent two years preparing for their climb.

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