Lucy Westlake has been climbing mountains with her father since she was seven-years-old, last year becoming the youngest girl to climb the 48 highpoints in the continental U.S. Now at age 13, she attempted to summit Denali, the 20,000 foot Alaskan giant.
“We really started planning around a year ago,” said Lucy. “And in order for me to climb Denali, we had to prove that I could handle the altitude.”
To do that, Lucy and her father Rodney summited Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa, in January.
Next came gathering their Denali crew, which included three other mountain climbers.
“Once they joined the team it became a reality because the fact is a private climb costs almost $60,000 and we didn’t have almost $60,000 to do just the two of us,” said Rodeny, Lucy’s father and climbing partner. “So the more people you involve, the more people you get on your private trip the better.”
The group, along with three professional guides, began their trek up the mountain on May 31 – a journey that spans over 40 miles of hiking, a 13,000 foot elevation gain and nearly three weeks of time.
“You’re hiking for minimum seven hours. We had 10-hour days, it’s a lot of endurance, a lot of work and endurance. Something you have to be prepared for, you can’t just show up on the mountain,” said Rodney.
“The toughest day was going from 14,000 which is camp three to High Camp, which is at 17,000,” added Lucy.
After a long journey to High Camp, the team was ultimately unable to attempt the final stretch to the top, a call their guides made as extreme weather conditions resulted in a death on the mountain.
“We’d been up there for awhile and the weather wasn’t looking any better so they definitely made the right decision in going down because there were going to be storms and it was going to be really cold,” said Lucy. “So we definitely didn’t want to be up there but it was still hard to go back down.”
“We never even got that window to even try to summit, to go past High Camp and to have to turn around, you know there’s experience there, there’s no shame at all, ever in turning around in mountaineering but it was hard to at least not even have that opportunity,” added Rodney.
While this meant Lucy did not break the record, she’s not giving up.
Lucy added, “it was scary sometimes, but yeah, it didn’t scare me off yet.”
Lucy has just over four years to attempt Denali again, as the current record for all 50 peaks is an 18-year-old.
Through her climb, Lucy and her team raised over $20,000 for Outdoor Empowerment Network, which works to get all kids outside and active.
Naperville News 17’s Evan Summers reports.
*All photos and videos courtesy of the Westlake family.