A nine-year-old boy from Southern California has become the youngest person in recorded history to reach the summit of Argentina's Aconcagua mountain, which at 6,962 metres is the tallest peak in the Western and Southern hemispheres.
Tyler Armstrong, from Orange County, reached the summit on Christmas Eve with his father Kevin and a Tibetan sherpa, Lhawang Dhondup, who has climbed Mount Everest many times. Aconcagua's sheer precipices and bitter cold have claimed more than 100 lives.
"You can really see the world's atmosphere up there. The clouds are under you, and it's really cold," Tyler said, of the summit. "It doesn't look like a kid's drawing of a mountain. It's probably as big as a house at the summit, and then it's a sheer drop."
Only 30 per cent of the 7,000 people who obtain permits to climb Aconcagua each year made the summit, said Nicolas Garcia, who handled the group's logistics from the ground. No one under 14 is usually allowed, so the family had to persuade an Argentine judge that Tyler could safely accomplish the feat. In their case, they took the "Polish Glacier" route, which does not require climbing, and roped themselves together only when crossing steep ice-covered slopes.
"Any kid can do this, all they have to do is try. And set their mind to the goal," said Tyler, who worked out twice a day for a year and a half to prepare for the climb. He also held fundraisers, not only to defray the cost, but to raise money for CureDuchenne, a charity funding research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a disease affecting children.
"I think Tyler's record speaks for itself and because he's doing it for a good cause, I think the judge recognised that," said his father, an emergency medical technician. Tyler's mother is a paediatric neuropsychologist, and they have a younger son, Dylan.
"Most people think we as parents are pushing Tyler to do this, when it's completely the opposite. I wouldn't climb it if I didn't have to, but my wife makes me do it to keep watch on him," Armstrong said.
"He's a great dad," Tyler said. "At 20,000 feet, he wanted to turn around, but I kept him going."
Aconcagua's previous record-holder was Matthew Moniz of Colorado, who was 10 when he reached the summit in 2008.