17-Year-Old California Boy Conquers Mt. McKinley

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8/3/09 10:13:35AM
An especially proud moment for the extended family, myself included...he's my cousin.
8/3/09 10:57:18AM
1.) The link doesn't work for me.
2.) This is something to definitely be proud of.
3.) Bitchin!
8/3/09 11:19:06AM
Must be that work PC of yours. In which case...

ALAMO — Scott Jones grew up in a gated community on the side of Mount Diablo, his dad marking how far he and his two younger siblings could climb the rocks embedded on the outside walls of their Alamo home.

But the 17-year-old, who will be a senior at Monte Vista High School this fall, recently faced a far different mountain — one covered in snow, full of life-threatening dangers and that holds the title of highest point in North America.

Last month, Scott, who began climbing three years ago, reached the top of Alaska's Mount McKinley. According to the National Park Service, 1,272 climbers — average age 38 — tried for tha t summit in 2008. Their success rate was 59 percent.

But for Scott, "It's vacation," he said.

He likes the planning, setting goals and reaching them. And he continues to set goals even higher.

This week, he and his dad Jeff Jones, who is new to mountain climbing, are on their way to Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa. Next year they plan to travel to the Himalayas for Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain.

Scott said he became interested in climbing after watching the television series "Everest: Beyond the Limit." His first climb was a day trip to Mount Whitney in the Sierra at the end of his freshman year. That climb took longer than expected, but it wasn't his only surprise. Driving there, he got altitude sickness and vomited at the start.

Also, "I forgot food," he said.

Scott later climbed Mount Shasta and Washington state's Mount Rainier. Last month, led by a team of four guides, he and seven others made it up McKinley.

The trek began with a flight on a small plane that landed on a glacier. His gear weighed 120 pounds and included his food, fuel, heavy jackets, a 70-pound sled, packs to put water bottles in so they wouldn't freeze. a tent, mittens and other clothing made for subfreezing temperatures.

The coldest it got was 20 degrees below zero, Scott said. That wasn't bad while they were on the move, but during breaks he stayed warm by doing jumping jacks and other exercises.

Climbers on the trail constantly ate because they needed a lot of energy, he said. Their diet included lots of junk food such as candy bars, which pack the most energy for their size.

For safety, three to four team members kept tied together, and carried ice axes, he said. If a member fell, the lead climber would drop, roll over and use his ax to dig into the ice to stop the team from sliding down.

Other dangers included falling rocks, with one area they passed being a particular danger.

"You really have to run through that area as fast as you can," he said.

The climbers would build camps as they got closer to the top, sometimes leaving gear behind for their descent if it was no longer near the summit. Besides tents they also carved out snow caves, with Scott getting creative with his.

"I carved out a little holder for my toilet paper," he said. "I was kind of bored."

Scott said they reached the top in 12 days. Although there were no injuries on the way up, his team had a few accidents on the three-day trip down, he said. One guide dislocated a shoulder when he dug in his ice ax after another team member fell. Another climber cut his finger. Although that may not sound like a big deal, Scott said it was lucky it happened the day before they left.

"You don't heal up there," he said.

When Scott returned, his face tanned and chapped and sore from the cold, his family made a surprise visit to Alaska to meet him.

"I didn't recognize him," said his dad Jeff Jones, the owner of a glass bottle distribution business who funded the $7,500 trip and $10,000 in equipment.

Although Scott has been back only a few weeks, he and his dad impulsively decided to go to Mount Kilimanjaro this week.

They will also go to Mount Everest together. Jeff Jones plans to make it to the base — a two-week walk, but Scott plans to reach the summit.

That trip to the top costs some $70,000 in guide fees and takes three months to complete. Scott plans to go in March, an opportune time because of the weather, and hopes to make arrangements with his school to graduate.

Scott, who will study business at the University of Colorado in Boulder, has set a goal to summit Mount Everest before college.

The youngest person ever to climb Mount Everest was Ming Kipa Sherpa, of Nepal, who made the summit in 2003 at age 15.

George Martin, general manager of everestnews.com, said dozens of teens have reached the top of Mount Everest, only a handful of them Americans. Martin, who said there is no official registry of those who reach the top, said more than 3,000 people are known to have made it but that would not include people who have gone up on the Chinese side where such information is limited. He said the cost to make it to the top ranges from $3,000 to $100,000, and that making it to the top is no small feat.

"You could die," Martin said.

Incentive for me to try and save up some time off and get out there for a visit over the holidays. I haven't seen the kid in a few years and this might well be my last chance if he goes through with this, but I certainly am happy for him as is the rest of our family. My parents will probably see him this next week or so, they're heading out for a trip and will be in those parts (I think).
8/3/09 1:09:15PM
Wonder what side is harder to climb?
8/3/09 5:46:42PM
So he made it up then? The article only states he is planning to go up. Where did he get 70 grand to do this? That's an absurd amount of money.
8/3/09 5:52:14PM
Typo. I meant to say McKinley, not Everest.
8/3/09 5:52:19PM
Dude that's 20 000 some feet right there, very impressive. He can now be considered as one of the few greats
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