No data to suggest a 12-year-old is at greater medical risk at altitude, says Redpoint advisor Paul Auerbach
A 12-year-old from Yorba Linda, California, will have to wait at least another year before attempting to be the youngest person to summit Mt Everest, he found out over the weekend.
Tyler Armstrong was attempting this month to be the youngest person to conquer the world’s seven summits and had been training for years for Everest, but the Chinese government had other plans for him, raising the minimum age to 18 and the maximum to 75. His permit to climb the world’s tallest peak was denied.
“We asked for an exception based on his experience and abilities, but Tyler’s age raised a lot of questions because he is so young,” Tyler’s father, Kevin, told the Orange County Register. He said high-altitude doctors told them Tyler would not be at any greater risk than an adult.
“A 12-year-old climbing Mt Everest is new territory, so it’s not easy to say anything definitive because there aren’t any data about someone his age on this peak,” said wilderness medicine expert and author of Medicine for the Outdoors, Stanford physician and Redpoint Senior Medical Advisor Paul Auerbach.
“Apart from risks of injuries, such as frostbite or those suffered during a fall while climbing, there is the issue of how his brain will fare with regard to high-altitude illness, such as high altitude cerebral edema,” he said. “This is caused by hypoxia, but if he’s properly acclimatized and using adequate amounts of supplemental oxygen, that should be protective. If supplemental oxygen fails, will a youth be better or worse able than an adult to tolerate low oxygen in a mountain climbing situation? Hopefully as well or better, but nobody knows for certain.”
Tyler has successfully climbed three of the seven summits. Now that his Everest bid has been put on hold, he plans to climb Australia’s Mount Kosciuszko in August, instead. (At 7,130 feet, it is the shortest of the peaks.) At 8 years old, he was the second youngest person to make it to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. At age 9, he was the youngest to summit Mount Aconcagua in Argentina. Last August, he conquered Mount Elbrus in Russia.
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