Climber conquers world's highest peaks – aged 16

Schoolboy's ascent of Everest makes him youngest person to scale 'seven summits'
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The Independent Online

At 8.45am yesterday morning, when many teenagers would be contemplating whether they could be bothered to get out of bed, George Atkinson reached the top of Everest and became the youngest person in the world to scale all "seven summits" – the tallest mountain on each of the seven continents

The 16-year-old also claimed the prize of being the youngest Briton to scale the highest of them all.

Yesterday, Penny, 45, the mother of the schoolboy from Surbiton, south-west London, said she and his father Mark were elated and emotional: "It has been a nerve-racking experience for us and the entire family has been up all night waiting for news.

In a blog, she wrote: "George has done it. He reached the summit. It sounds as if the weather is good with great views over Cho Oyu... A big thank you to everyone who has helped George to achieve his dream... Just get my boy down safe now!"

Dave Pritt, director of Adventure Peaks, which put together the 13-man team led by guides and Sherpas, said that last night George was safely back at Camp 2 (7,800m). He described the teenager as a very determined youngster: "It is important to approach such a challenge in a sensible manner and gain relevant experience and technical capability... George did both."

With his 17th birthday approaching on Sunday, the youngster has a mountaineering career to envy. Encouraged by his father Mark he was just six when they climbed Northern Ireland's highest peak Slieve Donard. The following year he conquered the three highest in Scotland, England and Wales – Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdonia.

At the tender age of 11, he began the classic mountaineering challenge to conquer the highest mountains on each of the seven continents when he took on Kilimanjaro's 5,963m might with his father. Two years later the pair attempted Europe's highest peak Elbrus but Mr Atkinson developed altitude sickness and fell short by 300m. His son continued on to the summit and in 2008 took on Indonesia's Carstensz Pyramid and South America's highest Aconcagua. Last year he scaled Mount McKinley in Alaska while this year he warmed up for Everest with a trip up Vinson Massif, the 4,897m peak in Antarctica.

The teenager, who was raising money for the children's hospice charity Chase, said he liked "a good challenge" and prepared for the expeditions by running twice a week to increase his lung capacity and going to the gym three times a week. He explained: "I feel there is an amazing sense of freedom on any mountain range... If I got the record it would be the cherry on top."

Of the thousands that have taken on Everest, most have fallen short and around 200 have perished on the lethal peak. Speaking before he set off, George said: "The places I've seen during my time climbing have been truly spectacular. I do have some fears about climbing Everest but my plan is just to take them in my stride."

Yesterday, at 16 years and 363 days, he broke American Johnny Collinson's record, set last year when he complete the seven summits challenge aged 17 years and 296 days.

The seven peaks

2005 Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, 5,963m

2007 Elbrus, Russia, 5,633m

2008 Aconcagua, Argentina, 6,942m

2008 Carstensz Pyramid, Indonesia, 4,884m

2010 Denali (Mount McKinley), Alaska, 6,195m

2011 Vinson Massif, Antarctica, 4,897m

2011 Everest, Nepal/Tibet, 8,848m