Kid Climber Scales World's Highest Mountains

'One Wrong Step'

Jordan said a lot of preparation goes into getting ready for the grueling climbs. At home in California, he runs uphill tugging a tire, sleeps in an acclimatizing tent in his bedroom and has learned all the technical skills needed to make these climbs.

"There's no Sherpas up here, no sled dogs or anything like that. You carry your own stuff," he said. "That was hard, training for it. At first I thought, 'why am I doing this training?'"

"One wrong step is the last step you'll ever take," he said.

But it is precisely that thrill, combined with the discipline of mind and body that keeps him climbing mountains.

On day four of the climb up McKinley, Jordan woke up and reached outside his sleeping bag for his radio to hear the forecast. His foot had been bothering him. The forecast brought good news: clear skies.

Along for every trip is Karen Lundgren, Romero's girlfriend, who films the treks. They are keenly aware of the risks of Jordan's goal.

"I've been a paramedic for 10 years," Romero said. "There's a whole lot of people that go out to get a gallon of milk, down the highway, and never come home."

Yet, mountain climbing comes with its own set of perils not found on a trip to the grocery store, including deep crevices that could easily swallow a boy.

"I've had some tough moments, man. I've had some sleepless nights," he said. "I've had some very big tough decisions to make. Myself and my partner Karen, who's the most amazing adventure woman and motherly figure for Jordan I could ever imagine or want. We know we don't have a completely impenetrable bubble around him."

But as Jordan readily admits, that's part of the allure.

He said he wanted to do something that risked life, "because that's what every single person in their life has to do: take risks, take chances, go fast, take chances. And that for me is what mountain climbing is all about. Taking risks and taking chances."

The danger of the preteen's chosen hobby is what fascinates most people in his hometown of Big Bear Lake, Calif. He's become somewhat of a celebrity there. He is frequently asked to speak at schools where adoring students riddle him with questions about the climbs and refuse to leave without an autograph.

Trying to Stay Focused

By day five of the climb up McKinley, Jordan hoped for some easier terrain.

"There was my dad behind me motivating me and telling me to keep going," he said. "Without him behind me, I wouldn't be able to focus. He kept saying 'focus, focus, focus.'"

He took a short break in his father's arms that day -- a reminder for an instant that behind his adult ambitions Jordan is still just a kid.

"It's tiring," he said.

"There is no other boy in the world that could even dare this, Jordan," his father said. "It's amazing, Jordan. You are so brave."

"There's a fine line between encouraging him and pushing him through some dark, low moments when he's down on himself," Romero said. "When he just may need a piece of food and a big drink of water and a 10-minute rest is going to pull him out of a funk that he's in."

"There's a difference between that and a point where he has reached his maximum mentally, physically, and where the risk has become too high," he said. "Jordan has just not even come close to that point yet."

And he hasn't picked a cheap hobby either. Each trip costs about $100,000.

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