Did She Get To The Top?
No matter how old or young you may be, there is no denying that reaching the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro is an incredible achievement. One seven-year-old girl, Montannah Kenney, attempted to do just that. If she succeeded, it would make her the youngest person ever to do it. However, it was why she chose to embark on such a journey that takes this story to dizzying new heights. But did she do it?
Like Mother, Like Daughter
It is clear that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as far as Montannah Kenney is concerned. While she was about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, you couldn’t deny the influence that her mother, Hollie Kenney, had on her. Hollie is a professional triathlete. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as too much of surprise that she helped to train her daughter for her climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. How exactly does a seven-year-old train for such a daring climb?
Although Hollie was excited to give her daughter this amazing opportunity, she was fully aware of the dangers that this trip could bring. The mother’s research showed that only two-thirds of all Kilimanjaro climbers actually reach the summit, while the mountain experiences an average of 10 deaths per year. “I was very real with her, explaining that…it wouldn’t be an easy task,” Hollie said. Nevertheless, Montannah was committed to the cause and was ready to do the necessary training.
Any fan of the Rocky film franchise knows that every single one of those movies has an epic training montage before the big fight. Imagine Montannah Kenney instead of Sly Stallone and you’ve got a pretty accurate insight into her training schedule. The 2nd grader spent between four and eight hours training during her weekends. Then, in between her school hours, Montannah would hike short distances. With experience in sports such as basketball, swimming, and running, Montannah was physically prepared.
It Was Montannah’s Idea
Believe it or not, but the idea to climb Mount Kilimanjaro came from Montannah. After seeing her mother develop into a talented triathlete, Montannah was compelled to follow in her mother’s footsteps and do something remarkable. Therefore, she asked Hollie to climb the mountain alongside her. As previously mentioned, Hollie warned her daughter of the dangers that Mount Kilimanjaro might present. However, Montannah wouldn’t have it any other way, and had her heart set on reaching that summit.
Climbing Kilimanjaro had already been a dream of Hollie’s for a while. In fact, she had scheduled a trip to Africa to climb the mountain with her sister. However, she backed out at the last minute. After hearing her mother share this story with her friends, Montannah was determined to make her mother’s dream come true. “She said to me, ‘Mommy I want to do it too,'” Hollie said. “I didn’t discount what she said but I knew she didn’t know the magnitude…”
While Montannah was hellbent on becoming the youngest person ever to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, there was a possibility that she might actually be too young to climb it. The youngest legal age that one can climb the African mountain is actually 10 years old. Consequentially, the mother-and-daughter duo required a special kind of permit for Montannah to make her dream come true. The permit specified that the girl would need to be accompanied by 25 assistants and a guide.
Hollie knew that it was a race against the clock to help Montannah become the youngest person to reach Kilimanjaro’s summit. This is because a young girl called Roxy Getter set the record a few months beforehand. She was eight years old at the time. “I woke up Montannah the next morning and said, ‘If you want this record, we have to go when you’re still seven,'” Hollie said. “I knew she had spring break in March and we planned the entire trip in a month-and-a-half.”
If Montannah did manage to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, she would become the youngest person to do so. That, in itself, would be a remarkable story. However, Montannah had a much more profound reason for her daring adventure. According to her, she was climbing the mountain to honor her late father, who tragically passed away when she was just three years of age. Her dad had suffered from PTSD and had used EMDR therapy as a form of treatment.
Montannah’s father inspired her to start a Gofundme page in order to raise money for EMDR research. “We would love to be able to use this World Record attempt (and hopefully accomplishment) as a way to raise awareness to this awesome therapy for people struggling with PTSD and to help cover costs for those who could benefit from this therapy,” Hollie wrote on the page. “This is the best way we can honor him and we know he would be proud.”
A Life Full Of Purpose
As far as Hollie’s concerned, she just wants Montannah’s life to be full of meaning and purpose. For her, Kilimanjaro is a great place for her to start. “To be able to provide the ability for Montannah to follow a dream that she wants to do, there’s no price tag,” Hollie said. “Our philosophy in life is to be somebody and to go out there and do something with your life…We want our life to have purpose.”
Touching Down In Tanzania
Montannah and “Momtannah,” as she calls herself on her Instagram account, began their incredible journey in early March 2018. Upon arriving in Tanzania and meeting their co-climbers at the base camp, the team eventually began their ascent up Mount Kilimanjaro. After some bonding sessions and developing a camaraderie with the team, Montannah was ready to embark on the most daring expedition of her life so far. She may have been physically ready, but was she mentally ready as well?
Prepared In Every Way
In order to ensure that they had the best chance possible to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, Montannah’s team took plenty of supplies. They made sure that they had enough resources that would last them enough time to go up and down the mountain. Based on history and previous records, it normally takes the average person to just over six days to reach the summit of “Kili.” So, with all the food and water they needed, they were ready to go.
Ambitious & Humble
There is no denying that Montannah is one of the most ambitious young girls that you will ever meet. However, with such great ambition comes even greater humility on her part. “I want to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro because it would be a fun adventure with my mom, and because it would be really cool to try to break the world record,” she said. “But I would want to climb it anyway because I don’t care if I break it.”
There were many points during their ascent up the mountain that Hollie firmly believed they had made a big mistake. So many factors went against them during the early stages of the climb. “Beyond the first day, it rained every single day. Everything we owned was wet,” Hollie said. “By day five, we were putting on wet clothes to go out in the freezing weather.” Despite these major setbacks, Montannah never lost faith that they would complete their mission and eventually reach the summit.
Worst Weather Ever
Hollie Kenney was right to suspect that the weather conditions during their climb up Mount Kilimanjaro were particularly severe. “When I called the Tanzania office [later] to talk to them, they said to me, ‘We heard you had the worst weather in 10 years,'” Hollie said. “And no one ever alluded to that when we were up there. We just figured it was normal and it was something we had to deal with, but the weather was terrible.”
Keeping Hope Alive
Although challenges kept coming their way, Montannah’s resolve remained strong throughout the climb. “She never, ever questioned what she was doing,” Hollie said. “Every day I asked Montannah if this was harder or easier than she thought it would be, and every day she answered, ‘Easier.'” This was most evident on the 6th day of the climb when the cold, slippery conditions meant that the team only traveled 3 miles in 7.5 hours. Nevertheless, Montannah called it the “best day ever.”
Whether they would reach the summit or not, Hollie just wanted to create memories that both she and Montannah would never forget. As her only parent, Hollie realizes that she needs to work twice as hard to give Montannah an awesome childhood to look back on. “I think that was super exciting for us. It’s something she’ll be able to look back on and smile,” Hollie said. “I’m her only parent and I’m an older parent and I want to build these awesome memories with my child.”
Above The Clouds
At one point in the journey, Montannah had climbed so high that she was literally above the clouds. “When we talked about the mountain being above the clouds, she immediately associated that with heaven and it resonated with her,” Hollie said. “She loved that idea of being closer to her dad and asked me if she was going to be able to see him.” Montannah reiterated that sentiment, saying, “the higher I go, the closer I am to him in heaven.”
She Did It!
After six and a half days of the worst weather conditions in years, a lot of grit, and determination, Montannah, Hollie and the team finally reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. At seven years of age, Montannah officially became the youngest person ever to achieve such a feat. And despite the fact that summit reachers can only stay at the top for a few minutes, due to low oxygen levels, Montannah still managed to stand next to the summit sign with a smile on her face.
So High, It’s Snowing!
Montannah had climbed so high that she was officially on the highest point in the whole of Africa. That’s not all though. The summit was covered in snow. Upon completing the ascent, she sat at the sign that indicated that this was, in fact, the summit, and her guide went to sit alongside her. “Look at what she went through to get here. All this snow. Look at this, where we’re sitting now,” her guide said.
While it is safe to say that Hollie is incredibly proud of her daughter, there is someone else who was extremely impressed by Montannah’s grit and determination; her mountain guide. While he sat alongside her at Kilimanjaro’s summit, the guide couldn’t help but share how amazed he was to see the seven-year-old get so far. “I’m so proud of you, and I’m happy to be the one to get you here,” he said. The guide also had something special waiting for her when she returned to the mountain base…
Blowing Kisses To Dad
As she looked out onto the horizon from that stunning 19,341 ft summit with her guide, Montannah could look back on the last few months with pride, knowing that all of that hard work, training, and faith finally paid off. Then, in a truly heartfelt moment, she honored her dad in the most beautiful way. “She knew she wanted to blow kisses to him and wave and hopefully he would see her,” Hollie said. It was clear that Montannah would have made her father proud.
After descending the mountain and returning to the base camp, Montannah was in a for a big surprise. She received a certificate from the Climb Mount Kilimanjaro group, which officially recognized her as the youngest person ever to reach the mountain’s summit. Not only was she able to take home physical proof of her incredible achievement, but Montannah’s story would spread far and wide, becoming a viral sensation online. With a name that translates into “mountain,” it seems fitting that Montannah would be the one who smashed the world record.
Upon sharing Montannah’s amazing story with the online community, many wrote messages on social outlets such as Facebook and Instagram. The mother-daughter pairing received unanimous praise for their courageous effort. “You go girl! So sorry about your dad! You are a true tribute to him!” one person wrote. While another person wrote the following message, “Well done…congrats! It’s always refreshing to see positive news in the media. Hopefully in a few more years she can [astonish] us climbing Everest.”