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Calif. boy youngest to reach tallest peak in hemisphere

| Friday, Dec. 27, 2013, 5:33 p.m.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — A 9-year-old boy from Southern California has become the youngest person in recorded history to reach the summit of Argentina's Aconcagua mountain, which at 22,841 feet is the tallest peak in the Western and Southern hemispheres.

Tyler Armstrong of Yorba Linda reached the summit on Christmas Eve with his father, Kevin, and a Tibetan sherpa, Lhawang Dhondup, his team announced Friday.

When they climbed back down to the base camp, Tyler was much less tired than his dad and their guide, said Nicolas Garcia, who handled the expedition's logistics from the city of Mendoza.

“It's a record. Never before has a child as young as 9 reached the summit of Aconcagua,” Garcia said.

One younger boy climbed the lower slopes of Aconcagua, Garcia noted. An Inca boy was sacrificed 500 years ago at 16,400 feet on Piramide, one of the mountain's lower peaks. Scientific tests on the mummy, recovered in 1985, put his age at about 7.

Only 30 percent of the 7,000 people who obtain permits to climb Aconcagua each year make the summit, Garcia said, and no one younger than 14 is usually allowed. The Armstrongs hired a lawyer to make their case before an Argentine judge that Tyler could safely accomplish the feat. He climbed the 19,341-foot Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania when he was 8, and with Aconcagua conquered, is determined to reach all “seven summits,” the highest mountains on each of the seven continents.

Aconcagua can be deadly. Last year, three climbers died, although no one died the year before that, and no one has been killed so far this summer climbing season, Garcia said. Since the first climbers reached the top of Aconcagua in 1897, more than 110 people have died trying, he said.

“Tyler is a really happy kid, very open. And he's prepared for these climbs very carefully,” Garcia said. “Neither he nor his father are in for ‘adventure.' Their project is pretty conservative, with a guide who is very experienced, so from my perspective, their climb wasn't imprudent.”

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