Top achievement – but did boy peak too soon?

Fifteen-year-old scales highest point on each continent but purists are not impressed

Los Angeles

A teenage mountaineer from Southern California has become the youngest person to complete one of his sport's most extravagant challenges: scaling the highest peak on each of the world's seven continents.

Jordan Romero, who is 15, reached the summit of Vinson Massif in Antarctica on Christmas Eve, posting an announcement on his Facebook page. "It's in the books," he declared. "The kid and team summit with all fingers and toes. Descent still to come. Then we celebrate."

Using a satellite telephone, he called his mother, Leigh Ann Drake, with news of the achievement. By around 5am GMT yesterday, he had safely returned to base camp, where staff had apparently prepared a festive dinner.

Jordan, who grew up climbing the mountains around his home in Big Bear Lake, just east of Los Angeles, reached his first major summit at the age of nine, when he scaled Kilimanjaro. At 13, he became the youngest person to reach the top of Everest.

The other mountains on his CV are Elbrus in Russia, Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia, Aconcagua in Argentina, which he scaled in 2007, and Denali, in Alaska, which he completed in 2008. Although it isn't officially one of the "big seven", he also climbed Kosciuszko in Australia.

In an audio message posted on Jordan's website, an unnamed member of his climbing team, which includes his father, Paul Romero, and his stepmother, Karen Lundgren, said that reaching the top of Vinson Massif had required "perfect teamwork". "Legendary day," it continued. "The mountain guides let us climb on top of Mount Vinson, and we appeared to be the only team climbing today. We have 15-knot wind. We think it's about minus 25. The team pride is absolutely flawless."

Jordan beat the previous record for the seven peaks, which was held by George Atkinson, a British climber, who completed them in May, at the age of 16. Both teenagers have sparked controversy in mountaineering circles, since purists claim they are too young to contribute properly to climbs, and therefore rely excessively on the support of their team-mates.

Cynics have also claimed that their youth is being exploited for commercial purposes. Jordan has several sponsors, and only a fortnight ago signed a lucrative endorsement deal with the makers of a brand of energy bar.

Although her son broadcasts his achievements on both Facebook and a personal website, Ms Drake declined to comment when contacted by the Associated Press yesterday, claiming that the family is not seeking attention for his achievements.

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