She’s feel­ing on top of the world

A Long Beach hon­ors stu­dent, 18, be­comes one of the youngest to sum­mit Mt. Ever­est.

Los Angeles Times - - Front Page - By Nancy Wride

From Earth’s tallest point, the mes­sage was un­der­stand­ably breath­less.

“We made it to the top!” Sa­man­tha Lar­son told her mother via satel­lite phone Thurs­day af­ter reach­ing the sum­mit of Mt. Ever­est. “Now all we have to do is make it back down.”

Lar­son, 18, of Long Beach, be­came one of the youngest peo­ple to scale the 29,035-foot peak, reach­ing the sum­mit with a group that in­cluded her fa­ther, David Lar­son, 51, an anes­the­si­ol­o­gist at Long Beach Me­mo­rial Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

The hon­ors grad­u­ate of Long Beach Polytech­nic High School put off her start as a fresh­man at Stan­ford by a year to scale some of the world’s high­est moun­tains.

She be­gan post­ing re­ports on her Ever­est trek last month at www.saman­thalar­son.blogspot .com, con­tin­u­ing her blog­ging un­til she was more than half­way up the moun­tain. Her mother, Sarah Han­son, and brother, Ted, added Sa­man­tha’s tri­umphant com­ments.

“She’s just amaz­ing,” Han­son said Fri­day from New York, where she moved last year, adding that Sa­man­tha has “a kind of stamina and per­sis­tence that just seems to be part of her na­ture, and it has been since she was lit­tle.


“I’m go­ing to feel a lot bet­ter when I hear they are safe and sound back at base camp. The last I heard, they were still mak­ing their way down.”

Han­son last talked to her daugh­ter early Thurs­day, which was about mid­day in Nepal.

“It was hard to hear her with the heavy breath­ing and the big time de­lay” of the satel­lite tele­phone, Han­son said. “She sounded good. She said she was tired. Then she said, ‘They’re go­ing down now, so I bet­ter go, Mom.’ They have a lim­ited amount of oxy­gen to get up and down the moun­tain.”

By Fri­day night, the teen and her group were tak­ing ad­van­tage of fa­vor­able weather and push­ing to reach a camp lower on the moun­tain.

“They are be­ing car­ried by eu­pho­ria . . . and oxy­gen,” said Janet Moore, Sa­man­tha’s step­mother. Moore said she spoke to the climbers early Fri­day morn­ing and ev­ery­one was in ex­cel­lent health and high spir­its.

The teen’s achieve­ment is his­toric, to be sure, though in­ter­na­tional moun­taineer­ing records do not al­ways agree.

The Nepalese gov­ern­ment an­nounced Fri­day that she had be­come the youngest for­eigner, male or fe­male, to reach Ever­est’s sum­mit.

But ac­cord­ing to 7sum­, known as an author­ity on such sta­tis­tics, a 17-year-old boy from France crested Ever­est in 1990, mak­ing him the youngest for­eigner on record to do so. A sherpa girl from Nepal made it at age 15.

Lar­son is be­lieved to be the youngest per­son in the world to have climbed all of the “seven sum­mits,” the high­est peak on each of the con­ti­nents.

The seven in­clude Kosciusko in Aus­tralia, though some moun­taineers say Carstensz Pyra­mid in In­done­sia should sup­plant it on the list.

Just to make sure, the Lar­sons plan to sum­mit Carstensz Pyra­mid in Au­gust, said Moore.

But first, fa­ther and daugh­ter must get down from Ever­est. Moore said they ex­pected to reach base camp by to­day, Kat­mandu by Mon­day, and, af­ter a brief rest, re­turn to Los An­ge­les on Wed­nes­day via Bangkok.

Since grad­u­at­ing last June — Poly class­mates voted her “most likely to travel the world” — with a 4.43 grade-point av­er­age, Sa­man­tha had trained for the Ever­est climb, split­ting her time be­tween her par­ents in Long Beach and New York while de­lay­ing col­lege.

“You can do your fresh­man year any­time,” said Cacey Ash­ley, a class­mate on the Poly dance team who has known the young climber for seven years and who played with her in the districtwide con­cert band. “How many peo­ple can do what Sa­man­tha’s do­ing?”

In 2002 at age 13, she be­came the youngest per­son to climb the high­est peak in South Amer­ica, Ar­gentina’s 22,841-foot Aconcagua. A year ear­lier she climbed Africa’s high­est, Kil­i­man­jaro.

On Aconcagua, she prac­ticed her eighth-grade al­ge­bra at 16,000 feet.

She won the science fair for the state’s third-largest dis­trict by chron­i­cling the ef­fect of al­ti­tude on heart rates, us­ing a med­i­cal mon­i­tor to test fel­low climbers.

She also lugged her oboe on the trek and played the in­stru­ment in the snowy con­di­tions so as to be ready for a band con­cert upon her re­turn to Long Beach.

“This is a pretty big event. . . . Poly was on the cover of Sports Il­lus­trated as be­ing the best ath­letic high school in Amer­ica,” said Shawn Ash­ley, Poly prin­ci­pal and the fa­ther of Cacey.

“And even with all of those ath­letes, I think Sa­man­tha’s ac­com­plish­ments rank as high as any of those.”

It was her fa­ther’s idea to at­tempt their first sum­mit. When he in­vited his whole fam­ily to join him as he en­deav­ored to climb a moun­tain, his mid­dle-schooler was the only one to say yes.

David Lar­son could not be reached this week while he and Sa­man­tha made their way down the moun­tain, but he told The Times in 2002 that he de­cided to at­tempt a sum­mit be­cause it would force him to get fit.

He was ready when fa­ther and daugh­ter “fi­nally started our sum­mit push yes­ter­day, mak­ing our way from base camp to camp two,” Sa­man­tha wrote Sun­day. “We don’t have In­ter­net ac­cess up here, but we were able to re­lay this in­for­ma­tion to our cor­re­spon­dents in New York via satel­lite phone. We’re tak­ing a rest day to­day, and plan to press on to­mor­row. If all goes well, we should sum­mit on the 17th.”

Tom Sjo­gren, one of the founders of ex­plor­er­, an ex­treme-ad­ven­ture news por- tal based in New York, said that as far as he knows, Sa­man­tha is the youngest to crest the seven sum­mits. But with the high num­ber of climbers, sta­tis­tics are hard to ver­ify.

“We had a cou­ple of hun­dred sum­mits on Ever­est just in the last cou­ple of days” and 500 sum­mits last year, Sjo­gren said. “And if you look at the other sum­mits” around the world, “it’s thou­sands and thou­sands of peo­ple,” he said.

“Not to take away from her achieve­ment,” he added. “It’s cool that she did it.”


Allen J. Sch­aben Los An­ge­les Times

UP­WARDLY MO­BILE: Sa­man­tha Lar­son and her fa­ther, David Lar­son, an anes­the­si­ol­o­gist, prac­tice on a rock climb­ing wall in Long Beach in De­cem­ber. The two have spent sev­eral years tack­ling the “seven sum­mits,” the tallest peak on each of the seven...

DOWN UN­DER: Sa­man­tha climbs in Aus­tralia in 2005. She de­layed col­lege by a year to fin­ish the “seven sum­mits.”

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