| Barbara Munker |
YORBA LINDA, California (dpa) – Standing 1.50 metres tall and weighing 36 kilogrammes, Tyler Armstrong is hardly a classically built alpinist. Then again, he is only 10 and already well on the way to conquering the highest peaks in the world.
The young climber from Yorba Linda, 60 kilometres south-east of Los Angeles, has big plans. As a teenager, he intends to climb the highest mountains on all seven continents. He already has two of them under his belt.
As a nine-year-old, he became the youngest person to scale Argentina’s 6,962-metre Mount Aconcagua last December.
“It was my first world record,” Tyler says proudly. “You can see all the clouds under you and from high up you can see the atmosphere starting to turn.”
Because of his age, the boy needed a special permit for the ascent, which he made with his father Kevin, 41, and a sherpa during a 12-day trip into the Andes.
But even this feat was not the pinnacle of his climbing accomplishments to date. At eight years old he conquered Africa’s highest mountain, 5,895-metre Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
A year earlier he crested California’s Mount Whitney (4,421m), the highest mountain in the United States outside Alaska.
Tyler first got hooked by mountaineering at six when he watched a television film about an extreme hike along the Great Divide from Mexico to Canada. From then on, he learnt the sport with a speed that soon left his teachers behind.
“I can barely keep up with him,” said his father Kevin Armstrong, who accompanied him on all of the big climbs so far.
“We don’t make him do this stuff,” he assures. “At home he is like a normal kid, but when he steps on the mountain he is very mature, ambitious and he acts like a professional.”
In late August, the father-son team accompanied experienced guides on the glacier of Mt Adams (3,743m) in the state of Washington. Here they trained on crevasses with crampons and ice climbing ropes for next year’s planned ascent of Mount McKinley in Alaska.
Once climbed, that will be the third of the planned seven-summit series.
In 2016, at age 12, Tyler aims to scale the 8,848-metre Mt Everest and break the youngest climber record set in 2010 by another Californian, 13-year-old Jordan Romero.
Tyler also stresses that his life is pretty usual for a kid of his age – when he’s not suspended on ropes on cliff faces.
“I’m just a normal kid and I like to play soccer and American football,” says the boy, whose daily routine is in fact far more rigorous than he lets on.
Each day he rises early and gets on the treadmill with a heavy backpack. After school he has an additional gym workout programme.
“Most kids do not want to work out or put any effort into it. I really like working out,” he said.
His mother Priscilla and little brother Dylan find Tyler’s climbing career “a bit crazy” but are now used to his passion for extremes. “Mom knows that Dad is watching over me and that it is going to happen, so she lets me do it.”
The junior mountaineer’s website lists some corporate sponsors, but he also welcomes other donations for his tours, which are partly done in support of a good cause.
One of Tyler’s friends suffers from rare Duchenne muscular dystrophy and is unable to walk properly. More people should know about the disease and help those who are affected, he said.
Meanwhile, apart from one fall that resulted in a chipped tooth, he has had a fairly accident-free induction into one of the world’s most dangerous activities.
“I’m really not scared at all,” maintains the young climber, whose wish list is growing as fast as he can check off items. “I definitely want to go hiking in Europe,” he added.
And while he’s there he can take care of the 5,642-metre-high Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus Mountains and pare down his seven-summit programme one more spot.