Southland boy biding time in attempt to climb Everest

A 13-year-old boy from Big Bear Lake was at an elevation of more than 24,000 feet today in his attempt to climb the north side of Mount Everest.

Jordan Romero and his climbing team reached his expedition's Camp Two above Everest's North Col, or pass, today, according to a website maintained in part by global mapping specialists ESRI of Redlands.

But the most difficult part of their climb is ahead of them. If the weather and other variables fall into place, they'll attempt to push on to the summit in the next few days. The remaining climb is about 5,000 vertical feet.

Jordan, who turns 14 in July, hopes to become the youngest person ever to climb Everest. He and his team, including his dad, his dad's girlfriend and experienced Sherpas, may try to top out this weekend or early next week.

"I really have dreamed about standing on top of the world since I was a little kid," Jordan wrote in an e-mail quoted in today's edition of The New York Times.

"I don't feel like I am rushing. Everest just happens to come now when I am 13 and I don't think age matters so much."

Everest tops out at more than 29,000 feet, where its summit is exposed to jet stream, gale-force winds and sub-freezing temperatures. Extreme altitude and low oxygen contribute to "death zone" conditions for all humans on the highest reaches on the mountain, above 8,000 meters.

On Everest, Jordan and his team are taking the technically challenging and less used northeast ridge route, The Times reported.

It begins in Tibet rather than the southeast Nepal approach used by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay when they became the first to reach the summit in 1953.

The route saves about $6,000 on a climbing permit and Tibet has no Everest-climbing age limit, while the Nepalese government's age minimum is 16, The Times reported.

The crux of the north side, the so-called Three Steps beginning at 27,890 feet, is a potentially treacherous rock climb along the steep, exposed northeast ridge, The Times reported.

If they get that far, Jordan plans to use fixed ropes to pull his body up the wind-blasted first step, then scale a 10-foot rock slab before climbing the 30-foot Chinese Ladder – a metal ladder set up by Chinese climbers in 1975 and looming over a 10,000-foot drop.

With crampons strapped to his boots, clinking rung after rung in the thin air, and the summit less than 800 feet away, maintaining focus and control will be critical.

And if they reach the summit, getting down unhurt will be even more challenging.

Jordan and his support team departed for Asia from Los Angeles International Airport on April 5. They made stops in Hong Kong, Bangladesh and Kathmandu before crossing into Tibet.

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