An Austin 7-year-old is angling to become the youngest girl to summit Mount Kilimanjaro.
Montannah Kenney, a second-grader at River Ridge Elementary School, has been hiking up and down hills around Austin in preparation for her trek, which is set to begin March 10. If all goes as planned, she’ll reach the top of the tallest free-standing mountain in the world on March 17 or 18.
The two are heading to Tanzania in memory of Montannah’s dad, who died a week after Montannah’s third birthday in 2013.
“The higher I go, the closer I am to him in heaven,” Montannah says.
Don’t worry, she’s pretty tough. A triathlete, swimmer and runner who plays basketball and soccer, she’s always followed the lead of her mother, Hollie Kenney, 45, a former professional triathlete who now runs a swim coaching business and leads the volunteer program for Team Beef. Together, they have been hiking the Hill of Life and Riverplace to strengthen their legs for their adventure.
Montannah describes her training as “really long.”
“Sometimes my friends come with us and sometimes my mom makes me do math problems when we see signs of how far we have gone, and how far we have to go,” Montannah says.
An estimated 25,000 people set out to climb the 19,341-foot mountain each year; about two-thirds make it to the top. Park rules require that climbers be 10 years old, but officials also issue special permits for younger climbers, which Montannah has obtained.
Currently, Roxy Getter of Florida, who was 8 when she made the climb, holds the record for the youngest female; Keats Boyd of Los Angeles was 7 when he climbed. The oldest climber to date was 88 when he slogged his way up. (You can check all the records, including records for the fastest ascent and descent, here.)
Conditions vary along the route, but the Kenneys will probably face temperature extremes from 90 degrees down to well below freezing – and winds like freight trains. They say they are prepared for very non-Texas conditions of snow or sleet.
“I want to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro because it would be a fun adventure with my mom, and because it would be really cool to try to break the world record, but I would want to climb it anyway because I don’t care if I break it,” Montannah says.
If she is successful, it will mark her first world record.
It will also mark the first time she’s ever camped.