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Seven Summits

Teen climbs world’s highest mountains

By Gail Hennessey | June 11 , 2007

Samantha Larson at the peak of Mount Everest.
Samantha Larson at the peak of Mount Everest. (Photo: Courtesy of Samantha Larson)

June 11, 2007

A California teen has reached new heights—literally. Samantha Larson, 18, is believed to be the youngest person to climb the Seven Summits, the highest mountains on all seven continents. She is also the youngest female American to successfully reach the top of Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain.

Samantha's adventure actually began several years ago. Mount Kilimanjaro—Africa’s 19,340-foot mountain—was her first big climb. She scaled the mountain when she was only 12.

“I had done a lot of hiking and rock climbing before, but it was the feeling of getting to the summit of Kilimanjaro that got me hooked on the sport," Samantha told Scholastic News Online.

Soon, Samantha began to set her sights on the Seven Summits. The highest summits on each of the seven continents are Kilimanjaro, Denali, Elbrus, Aconcagua, Kosciuzko, Vinson Massif, and Everest.

In 2002, at the age of 13, Samantha and her dad climbed Mount Aconcagua in South America. This mountain peak is 22,841 feet high. During breaks along the climb, Samantha even found time to do her homework!

samantha larson
Samantha Larson reached the summit of Mount Everest on May 17, 2007, becoming what is believed to be the youngest person to scale the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. (Photo: Scott Smeltzer/The Press-Telegram/AP Images)

Next, the father and daughter team tackled Mount Elbrus in Europe, Denali in North America, Mount Kosciuszko in Australia, and Vinson Massif in Antarctica. Finally, in May, Samantha and her dad reached Everest in Asia.

Getting ready for the world’s tallest peak—29,035 feet high—meant training on smaller mountains beforehand. Samantha also ran, swam, and did ballet to help maintain her fitness before the big climb. She was exhausted by the time she reached the summit, but Samantha discovered that the Everest climb was well worth it.

“I had a spectacular view of the Himalayan Kingdom," she said. "I had a wild mix of emotions at the summit—I actually cried in a mix of exhaustion, taking in the beauty of my surroundings, and recognition that I had just achieved my goals of not only climbing Everest, but all of the Seven Summits."

Samantha says that her climbs helped to show that if you set your mind to doing something, you can achieve anything.

“There are many different types of mountains in life. Whatever your passion may be, climb on!” she said.

Now the young climber is getting ready for a new challenge—college. Samantha had put off going to school for a year so she could complete the Seven Summits with her dad. This fall, she will hit the books at Stanford University.

For more information, check out Samantha’s Web site.

Critical Thinking Question

Read today's news story, and then answer the following question.

Tell us about a time you've set a big goal and reached it.

Join a discussion of this question on our bulletin board.


About the Author

Gail Hennessey recently retired from teaching 6th grade social studies in Harpursville, New York. For more information and activity ideas, visit her Web site at

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