Jordan Romero is thirteen years old. And he is departing on April 5 for his trip to climb Mount Everest.
That would be an extraordinary feat. But is it ethical to allow such a young person to put himself in such a dangerous situation?
(In case you are wondering, the current record for the youngest person to climb Mount Everest is held by Ming Kipa Sherpa, a 15-year-old Sherpa girl.)
How young is too young to take on such a dangerous task? I don’t think many people would be concerned about a 21 year old trying the climb. Maybe a few more would be concerned about an 18 year old and probably many more would be concerned for 16 year old.
One issue ethical issue is the death rate on Everest. By the end of 2009, Everest had claimed 216 lives. You can probably add in hundreds of lost toes and some lost fingers if you are inclined to include permanent maiming as part of the consequences.
On the other hand, young Mr. Romero has already reach the summit of 19,340-foot Kilimanjaro (Africa), 7,310-foot Mount Kosciusko (Australia), and 18,510-foot Mount Elbrus (Europe), 22,834-foot Aconcagua (South America) and 20,320-foot Denali (North America). If Jordan can climb Everest and Antarctica’s Vinson Massif, he will become the youngest person to have climbed the Seven Summits, the highest points on each continent. He has some experience and skill.
I would guess that if he succeeds he will be lauded. If he commits the ultimate failure and dies on Mount Everest then there will be an enormous outcry.
Age has been a problem before. They needed to get a court order to allow them to climb Mount Aconagua. Apparently Argentina has a strict age requirement of 14.
You have to wonder what the motivation is? Is it the young Mr. Romero’s passion to climb? Or is his father pushing him too far?
From a business ethics perspective, you might lay fault with the team’s guide for Mount Everest. A guide would want to make sure that the client has sufficient high altitude climbing knowledge and experience to succeed on the mountain. A good guide would be a gatekeeper, keeping unqualified people off the mountain. Of course there is an ethical issue since they don’t get paid when they say no.
Unfortunately, Romero’s team is climbing alone. In order to save money, they are not using a professional guide.
For me, the failure to use a guide is completely unacceptable. That shows that ambition is outweighing common-sense. Romero is clearly going to be in the most dangerous situations he as ever encountered. Mount Everest is substantially higher and more dangerous than the other peaks. A responsible parent would insist on proper safety precautions. Having an experienced guide should be one of those safety precautions.
It sounds like they are going to attempt the climb, so I wish them good luck and good health. I just wish they wouldn’t go.
- Into Teen Air by Bruce Barcott in Outside Magazine
- 13 Year Old Climbing Everest? More Than Just Bad Parental Judgment? by Jeff Lipshaw on the Legal Profession Blog
- Teenage girl conquers Everest, 50 years on by Luke Harding in the Guardian’s The Observer
- Everest Fatalities Table from 8000ers.com
- My Summit of Mount Rainier