Samantha Larson is on top of the world. Or at least, she was on May 16.
At 18 years old, Larson became the youngest American to climb the tallest mountain in the world, Nepal's Mount Everest. In conquering Everest's more than 29,000 feet, Larson also became the youngest person in the world to climb what's known as the "seven summits" -- the tallest peaks on each of the seven continents.
"It was just so incredible," she said about her Everest climb. "It was a beautiful day so the views were fantastic. And it was an incredible feeling, getting to the top."
Everest has claimed hundreds of lives with its unpredictable, often extreme conditions. Larson said the climb was the biggest challenge she's ever faced.
"It's definitely physically the hardest thing I have ever done," she said. "Much harder than any of the other seven summits."
For Larson, it was a journey six years in the making. She began climbing mountains at age 12, when she and her father scaled Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro. The next year, the two climbed South America's Aconcagua. Larson's stepmother, Janet Moore, never dreamed the teen would eventually summit the tallest mountain on Earth.
"When she started climbing Mount Kilimanjaro I never saw the end of the road being Everest," Moore said. "When we found out [she got to the top] the feeling was fantastic, she has made it!"
Larson blogged about her Everest climb until she was halfway up the mountain. Then her family posted the good news: "We made it to the top!"
Back home in Long Beach, Calif., it was a feat that wasn't lost on Larson's younger sister, Emma.
"I'm climbing the first of the seven summits in 2009, Kilimanjaro," she said. "I'll be 10 years old."