US teen becomes youngest to climb `Seven Summits'


Thu, May 24, 2007 - Page 20

After becoming the youngest climber to scale the highest mountains on all seven continents, an 18-year-old US woman is set to tackle another challenge -- starting college in the fall.

Samantha Larson of Long Beach, California, flew from Mount Everest to Kathmandu yesterday on her way home with her father, David Larson, a 51-year-old anesthesiologist who climbed the world's highest peak with his daughter.

"I was really happy to be there and I was happy to be going down too," Larson said about her thoughts when she reached the 8,850m summit of Mount Everest last Thursday.

She became the youngest foreign woman to scale Everest, the Nepalese Mountaineering Department said. A 15-year-old Sherpa girl from Nepal was the youngest ever to climb the peak.

Larson said Everest was "much harder, longer and higher" than the other peaks she has scaled in the past.

"There were a lot of difficult moments. It was a long trip, it was hard in general," she said. "It was one big challenge."

"I never gave up hope completely," she said. "Deep down I thought I would make it."

She said she was 12 when she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. Since then she has scaled the highest peaks on all seven continents, also called the "Seven Summits."

"It kind of happened. It was a gradual thing," she said of mountaineering.

Larson is set to start classes at Stanford University in the fall. She graduated from high school last year, but put off attending college for a year so she could scale some of the world's tallest peaks with her father.

Completing the climb in Nepal makes Larson the youngest person to have completed the "Seven Summits" challenge, breaking a record set last year by then 20-year-old British climber Rhys Miles Jones.

Freezing toes have forced a Dutchman to abandon his bid to conquer Mount Everest while wearing shorts, his spokesman said.

"Iceman" Wim Hof, who claims to have special abilities to withstand the cold, nevertheless managed to set an altitude record for scantily-clad climbing, his spokesman said.

"He set a new world record by going up to 7,400m in his shorts," Willibrord Frequin said yesterday.

"He had trouble with his toes; that's why he had to stop. They were almost frozen," he said, adding that Hof was making his way back down the 8,848m peak.

"He is very disappointed, but happy he got the new record," Frequin said.

Hof has already performed several feats of endurance in extremely cold conditions, including a barefoot run in the Arctic Circle.

But temperatures high on Everest can fall to as low as minus 30oC, with the human body also subjected to lower oxygen levels.