The California teenager who set a world record by climbing Mount Everest last year has another big challenge ahead.
In a few weeks, 15-year-old Jordan Romero will travel to Antarctica to begin ascending 16,000 feet up Mount Vinson Massif, the tallest mountain on the continent, his father, Paul Romero, told CNN.com. "This is a life mission for Jordan," said Romero, a professional mountaineer, explaining that when his son was 9, he became transfixed by a mural in his elementary school depicting the 7 Summits.
"Jordan hopped in the car one day after school years ago and announced, 'I want to climb the 7 Summits,' " the father recalled. "I said, 'OK, sure, what do you know about the 7 Summits?' And he apparently had looked up a lot of facts on the Internet and spent 20 minutes or so rattling off all this information to me. That's Jordan. That's when this 7 Summits goal began."
Before Romero made international headlines last year on Everest, the teen trained and focused continually for years, climbing all six of the 7 summits (and another in Australia for good measure). Mount Vinson is considered the final mountain in the 7 Summits juggernaut. The 7 Summits are Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa; Denali in Alaska; Mount Elbrus in the western Caucasus mountain range in Europe; Aconcagua in the Andes mountain range in the Argentinian province of Mendoza; Carstensz Pyramid in the western central highland of Papua province in Indonesia and Mount Everest in the Himalayas.
Paul Romero's girlfriend Karen Lundgren, also a professional mountaineer, will tackle Mount Vinson with father and son.
The Romeros have their critics. Some have said that Jordan is too young to handle such a physically demanding climb or that a kid his age couldn't possibly comprehend the lethal danger involved in this kind of mountaineering. The teen has rejected those criticisms, as has his father.
"I think Jordan has more than shown he's capable of doing this and that he wants to do it. We've taken a lot of criticism about what Jordan has done, but we're quite experienced and we've tried to stress that we know what we're doing," Paul Romero said. "This is something Jordan believes in. He's driven, tough, smart. He knows what's involved."
Jordan's Antarctica climb has a campaign - "Find YOUR Everest" - which he hopes will inspire kids to find their passion and to live healthier by knocking off the junk food. The teenager has also issued a challenge to school teachers to stop rewarding positive behavior with sugary treats.
The teen will tweet and post on Facebook and Flickr during the expedition, and people following the team's progress will be able to track them online through free iPhone and Droid apps, which will be available shortly on Romero's Web site.
It's impossible to know how many days it will take to ascend, Romero said.
Mount Vinson has treacherous and unpredictable winds, and it's one of the coldest places on Earth, so each moment on the mountain is a judgment call. The expedition has been carefully planned for a short window when the winds are thought to be manageable, Romero said.
The Romero family hopes to be back in the United States to enjoy New Years. After celebrating, he'll have just enough time to prepare for his next awesome challenge - getting his driver's permit.