Teen Climber: Too Young to Scale Mt. Everest?

"It feels like you have cinder blocks on your legs," Jordan said. "But we weren't gasping for air up there. You know we were not suffocating, but we were breathing heavy..taking five-minute breaks every twenty seconds."

Climbers Question Team Jordan's Decisions

As Team Jordan ascended Everest, some climbers questioned two critical and potentially dangerous decisions they made: first, climbing without a professional Western guide. At more than $25,000, guides are an insurance policy if trouble occurs, often making life-saving choices on whether to go on or turn back. Jordan's dad said the group's members were "not rookies."

"We've been widely scrutinized for not having a guide -- with us," said Paul Romero. "The fact of the matter is that we didn't hire a Western guide. We did, in fact, hire three -- extremely experienced, professional Sherpa guides from Nepal that combined had nine summits."

The second line of criticism has been on their route. Most groups ascend from the South Side in Nepal, but Team Jordan traversed up the more perilous north face on the Tibetan side since the Nepal government says they don't issue permits to anyone under age 16.

"North Side is more technical. It has about twice more fatalities than the South Side. It is a whole lot colder and a whole lot windier," Paul Romero said. "But there's less objective dangers... that you can't predict and have no control over."

A Near-Death Experience

Approaching Camp One, Team Jordan encountered a towering wall of ice -- which suddenly collapsed. "I remember the first thing my father had said was, 'Jordan, those things can fall any minute,'' he said.

Jordan and his father were dragged down the mountain, buried under ice, but able to get out. They might have died had they not been attached to a rope. Less than 100 feet away, a Hungarian climber was killed, buried under a sheet of ice.

"Me and Jordan stood right there and watched a man die right next to us," said Paul Romero, whose head and legs were punctured by the spikes on Jordan's boots during the ice fall. "It was a real punch in the chest, reminding you that you're at Mt. Everest. There's no screwing around here."

"We said 'hi' to that guy right before it all had happened," Jordan said.

After the ice fall, Team Jordan waited for their weather window. At 25,000 feet, they hit hurricane-force winds, which blew away their Sherpa's tents and forced the six members of Team Jordan to squeeze into a three-man tent. Battered by 100-mile-an-hour winds, they barely clung to the side of the great mountain.

"We had wind pounding on us...a whole day it was storming. Other tents were literally being blown off the mountain and down off one side and going 100 feet up in the air just twirling," Jordan said. "That was a little bit scary. ...It's crazy up there. You can't even believe it. It's ... you know, we're up on this ridge where you're totally exposed."

On the Top of the World

After five weeks on Everest, Jordan reached the summit -- an accomplishment of a lifetime. "It felt really good. You know, it wasn't so much for the record, but, you know, I was just so happy that our whole team had done it," he said.

For a boy who has yet to finish eighth grade, Jordan seems to understand the words of Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Everest, who once said, "It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves."

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