Teen Sets Mountain-Climbing Record

The highest peak on each continent was reached by record-setting Utah teenager.

January 28, 2010, 5:56 PM

Jan. 29, 2010— -- At age 17, Johnny Collinson has probably seen more of the world than most people will see in their lifetime. And we're not just talking flying around to international destinations. Last week, the Utah teenager climbed the 16,067-foot tall Vinso Massif, the tallest mountain in Antarctica. The climb by itself is pretty impressive but for Collinson it marked the end of a year-long journey to summit the tallest peak on every continent.

Collinson now holds the record for being the youngest person to ever accomplish the feat, known as the Seven Summits.

"I find that once you're in nature and you're being athletic, once the endorphins come out and you're super pumped on what you are doing, you can look around and see how beautiful it is and you see other things you want to do," Collinson told ABC News before hoping on a plane to an extreme skiing competition in Washington State.

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Collinson started skiing before he was three, summited Mt. Rainier at age 4 and has gone on to climb 200 large mountains setting a number of youngest-to-climb records in the process.

"I've been climbing my whole life with my parents around the U.S.," he said. "I've climbed most of the peaks in the Western United States. So I had a lot of experience with technical climbing and different glacial experiences, but I hadn't climbed anything on a global scale before."

To train for the trip, Collinson would take winter hikes up an 11,000-peak near his home, carrying five-gallon jugs of water -- you know those ones in your office water cooler that weigh about 42 pounds.

The adventure started last January when Collinson climbed 22,841-foot Aconcagua in Argentina followed by Mount Everest (29,030 feet) in May and then Alaska's Denali in June. The next month, he climbed Elbrus in Russia (Europe's highest peak at 18,510 feet), then Africa's Kilimanjaro (19,340 feet) in July, Carstenz Pyramid (16,023 feet) in New Guinea in August and then the Antarctic peak last week.

Collinson said that he managed to escape each climb without any major injuries.

"We had a lot of fun doing it. It was good and I stayed healthy," he said.

It should be noted that there is some debate about what peaks make up the true Seven Summits. Many people consider Mount Kosciuszko (7,310 feet) in Australia as part of the group. Others say that the Carstenz Pyramid (16,023 feet) in New Guinea is the true high point of a continental plate known as Oceania that includes Australia.

Collinson climbed New Guinea's Carstenz Pyramid while Johnny Strange of Malibu, Calif., completed the seven peaks by climbing Australia's Kosciuszko. He was also 17 -- a younger 17 than Collinson -- when he completed the goal last June.

Dick Bass, the founder and owner of Snowbird Ski Resort in Collinson's hometown, was the first to conquer the Seven Summits and he climbed Australia's Kosciuszko.

Forced to pick a favorite climb, Collinson said Denali.

"I had a lot fun on the North American peak because it snowed a bunch, which made it hard for climbing but then it made the skiing really good," he said.

Yes, he not only carried skis up, but skied down the mountain.

Collinson's parents helped finance the adventure. School wasn't an issue either.

"Ever since I was little, we would pull out from the public schools in the wintertime for skiing and my mom would kind of home-school us," he said. For this trip, he took independent study packets from Brigham Young University. He is now a high school senior and expects to graduate with his class this year and then plans to enroll at the University of Utah.

"My family is the biggest supporter. They were behind me 100 percent from the start. All my friends thought it was super cool," he said. "They were always excited when I got back from a trip."

So what's next?

"I want to speak to the youth of America," Collinson said, "hopefully motivating them to find a passion in the outdoors and work with kids about being in the outdoors and finding something that they love to do athletically out there."

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