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Young hiker has a tall tale to share with classmates

Tyler Armstrong, 7, of Yorba Linda recently scaled 14,494-foot Mt. Whitney with his father. He did it in a speedy seven hours and 50 minutes. Though no records are kept, he's probably the youngest to climb the peak in a single day.

August 19, 2011|By Ricardo Lopez, Los Angeles Times
  • Tyler Armstrong, a 7-year-old from Yorba Linda, sits atop Mt. Whitney. He just might be the youngest ever to climb the 14,494-foot peak in a single day.
Tyler Armstrong, a 7-year-old from Yorba Linda, sits atop Mt. Whitney.…

At 7, Tyler Armstrong is missing his two front teeth and is getting ready to start second grade in a couple of weeks.

While some classmates will surely share the typical summer vacation tales, Armstrong, a blond-haired Yorba Linda boy with a competitive streak, will tell of his dizzying adventure: climbing Mt. Whitney.

At 14,494 feet, the California mountain is the tallest in the Lower 48. Armstrong trekked to the summit late last month in a speedy seven hours and 50 minutes with his father, Kevin.

"Tyler was pushing me up the mountain," Kevin said. "He was going faster than I'd ever gone before. The fastest I'd ever done it was nine hours."

Though no official records are kept, Tyler is probably among the youngest to hike Mt. Whitney in a single day, his father said.

"He was just determined to get to the top of the mountain," Kevin said.

The young boy's fascination started with a documentary about hiking that he watched last year with his father, who at 11 also climbed Mt. Whitney with his father.

"At first, I didn't think he was serious," Kevin said of Tyler's wish to hike the mountain. "I thought it was just going to be something he never did."

But Tyler was determined to prove he could do it.

He began training in January, adopting a regimen that included running on a treadmill several times a week and around a nearby lake. He also began hiking smaller mountains in Southern California every month.

By the end of July, he was ready.

He and his father spent a day and a half at the mountain's base camp so they could adapt to the climate and thin air, then set off at 2:05 a.m. on July 26.

Shortly before 10 a.m., after traversing snow and spotting a few deer, the pair were signing their names in a logbook at the top of the mountain.

Except for a stumble in which Tyler cut his knee on a rock and some altitude sickness at the summit, the hike was successful.

On the way back down, other hikers recognized Tyler from a story in the local newspaper. They stopped to take pictures with the boy.

"I feel proud," Tyler said Thursday morning before getting dropped off at summer camp. "I got to do stuff that not a lot of 7-year-olds can do."

The experience, he said, "was fun. I got to spend time with my dad for three days."

He excitedly tells of even bigger plans to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, which has an age restriction. Tyler must wait until he turns 10, but he hopes his father can secure an exemption so he can climb it next year.

"I want to break the record. I can do it," he said.

His father said he is supportive of Tyler's ambitions to climb bigger mountains.

"Whatever he wants to do, I'm behind," he said. "You can't force a kid to hike up a mountain."

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