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Utah teen becomes one of youngest to climb Everest


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SALT LAKE CITY -- A Utah teenager has returned from Asia after a brutally exhausting experience, and he just loved it. With the exception of a Sherpa boy, he's the youngest person ever to reach the top of Mount Everest.

Johnny Collinson lives at Snowbird, where his parents work. His family waited at home the last couple of months he followed a dream he's had for 10 of his 17 years.

"It's the highest mountain, the highest place on Earth," Collinson said. "Since it's the highest, it would seem like the most challenging."

The day he flew to Asia he turned 17. Sherpas on Mount Everest were skeptical of such a youthful climber. "They weren't sure what to expect of me, but they saw that I was really strong so I got the nickname 'The White Sherpa,'" Collinson said.

At his age, most kids are dreaming about the junior prom or worrying about schoolwork.

"I'm taking independent study classes from BYU, so I was doing homework at base camp," Collinson said. "I was super happy to be, like, every day, moving closer and closer to my goal."

The hardest part was pushing himself to get started each morning. On summit day, it was 40 below zero. "It was so cold that my feet were getting really cold, but I knew if I stuck it out until the sun came up, that I could make it," he said.

After weeks on the mountain Collinson achieved the goal he set two-thirds of his life ago.

"It was amazing. You could look around and everything is below you. You can actually see that the earth is curved," he said. "It was overwhelming how happy I was getting up there."

Collinson continued, "I've always been able to push myself, so it feels good after a hard climb and you make it."

The top of the world may seem like the limit to where a person can go, but Collinson's parents aren't thinking of it that way. They say the whole message is that kids should follow their passions and never set limits.

Collinson does have higher ambitions. By the end of this year, he expects to become the youngest person ever to climb the highest peak on each of the seven continents. He's two down and five to go, and he's raising money through his Web site, JohnnyCollinson.com.

E-mail: jhollenhorst@ksl.com

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John Hollenhorst

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