January 27, 2006
Poly PACE senior Samantha Larson has now climbed six of the Seven Summits, the tallest peaks on each continent.
Only one peak remains, the tallest peak in the world. If she completes her planned ascent of Mt. Everest in the spring of 2007, she would be the youngest person ever to complete the seven.
The 17 year old is so intent on her goal that she is applying only to colleges that will defer her admission for a year while she completes the quest.
Samantha used her recent winter vacation to climb Vinson Massif, the 16,065-foot highest mountain in Antarctica. She was accompanied by her father, David Larson, who has joined her on the other summit trips.
"A lot of kids at school have been congratulating me since I got back," Samantha said, "but I don’t think it’s something most of them want to do."
To make their recent ascent, they flew to Punta Arenas, Chile, near the southern tip of South America. After riding a cargo plane to Patriot Hill in Antarctica, they took a smaller plane to the base camp on the mountain.
In temperatures that despite 24-hour sunlight never climbed above freezing and occasionally plunged to -30°F, she spent five days climbing to the top of Vinson. After summiting, she took two days to descend before flying out earlier this month.
In 2002 at age 13, Samantha became the youngest person to climb the highest peak in South America, 22,841-foot Mt. Aconcagua. A year earlier she climbed Africa’s highest, Mt. Kilimanjaro.
After reaching the top of Aconcagua as a Hughes Middle School student, she hurried down the mountain in only two days, caught a plane and arrived in Los Angeles in time for her to make a concert rehearsal. Because she had a science project due, Samantha had taken a portable blood gas analyzer on the trip and checked fellow climbers’ blood oxygen levels to try to predict altitude sickness.
Since that trip, she and her father have climbed three more of the Seven Summits: Europe’s Mt. Elbrus, North America’s Mt. McKinley and Australia’s Mt. Kosciuszko.