From Earth's tallest point, her blog post was short. It never mentioned what the Nepalese government announced today:
Samantha Larson of Long Beach was, at 18, the youngest foreigner to summit Mt. Everest.
"We made it to the top!" wrote Larson, an honors graduate from Long Beach Polytechnic High School, at 10:35 p.m. Wednesday night. "Now all we have to do is make it back down."
It was her latest post to www.samanthalarson.blogspot.com since her journey began last month. Forget internet access; nothing can grow on the barren upper half of the world's highest peak, so her posts from Asia landed via satellite telephone to "correspondents" in New York (translation: her mom and her brother).
Larson is thought to be the youngest person in the world to have climbed all of the seven summits, the highest peak on each of the continents. She surely is the only teenager blogging from one.
"I'm going to feel a lot better when I hear they are safe and sound back at base camp," Samantha's mother, Sarah Hanson, said today from a New York train station. "The last I heard, they were still making their way down."
Hanson last talked to her daughter early Thursday, which was about midday in Nepal.
"It was hard to hear her with the heavy breathing and the big time delay" of the satellite telephone, Hanson said. "She sounded good. She said she was tired. Then she said, 'They're going down now, so I better go, Mom.' They have a limited amount of oxygen to get up and down the mountain."
Larson climbs with her father, a Long Beach anesthesiologist. They are believed to be the first father-daughter team to crest the seven summits.
Having graduated from Polytechnic High School in June 2006 - classmates voted her "mostly likely to travel the world" - Larson has been training ever since to make the Everest climb. She deferred her start at Stanford University until this September.
"You can do your freshman year anytime," noted Cacey Ashley, a classmate on the Poly dance team who has known Samantha for seven years and who played with her on the districtwide concert band at Long Beach Unified. Ashley has followed her friend's progress via Samantha's blog.
"How many people can do what Samantha's doing?" Ashley asked.
Larson has long shined in academics and athletics.
During her 2002 summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Argentina, Larson practiced her eighth-grade algebra at 16,000 feet. She won the science fair for the state's third-largest district by chronicling the effect of altitude on heart rates, using a medical monitor to test fellow climbers.
She also lugged her oboe on the trek and played the instrument in the snowy conditions so as to be ready for a band concert upon her return to Long Beach.
The best chronicle of Larson's feats can be found in her own words, on her blog. Her voice is clear and vivid as she recounts the stages of her Everest journey, and those of other summits. There are photographs, and her loved ones can e-mail her during her journey.
Of her December, 2005 summit during winter break, she wrote:
"We flew to Punta Arenas, Chile, where we met up with the rest of the group, and after a couple of days waiting for the right weather, we flew on a Russian Ilyushin to Patriot Hills, Antarctica. From there, we flew in a Twin Otter to Vinson's base-camp."
Then a senior at Poly High, Larson chronicled how she fell ill to the rigors of the altitude, which she called mountain sickness.
With her at every climb has been her father, David Larson, 51, an anesthesiologist at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center.
It was his idea to attempt their first climb. When he invited his whole family to join him as he endeavored to climb a mountain, his middle-schooler was the only one to say yes.
He could not be reached this week while he and Samantha made their way down the mountain, but he told The Times for a May, 2002 story that he decided to attempt a summit because it would force him to get fit.
And he was ready indeed when father and daughter "finally started our summit push yesterday, making our way from base camp to camp two," Samantha wrote Sunday. "We don't have internet access up here, but we were able to relay this information to our correspondents in New York via satellite phone. We're taking a rest day today, and plan to press on tomorrow. If all goes well, we should summit on the 17th."
Instead, they reached the top of the 29,035-foot mountain the night before. Everestnews.com chronicled it.
Larson's potentially record-breaking ascent of the seventh summit has made relatively little news. Her blog hits are mostly by people she knows.
But that's probably about to change. For now, as she put it this week on her blog, the goal is to get back down the treacherous mountain. Everestnews.com says 179 people have made the Everest summit in 2007, and five died on the mountain.
"It's almost harder coming down than reaching the top, because you're exhausted," said Larson's friend Ashley.
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