Think Tall — How 15-Year-Old Tyler Armstrong has Tackled Top Mountains

Tyler Armstrong has achieved the highest of goals.


At 15-years-old, he has already summited some of the world’s most intimidating peaks. His roster of world records is more than impressive.

Some of the titles he’s earned?

At age 7, he became the youngest person to climb Mount Whitney in a single day.

At age 8, he was the second youngest person to climb Mount Kilimanjaro

By age 9, he became the youngest person to climb Mount Aconcagua.

And that’s all before he went to middle school.

Middle. School.

What is even more impressive than Tyler’s young age is his mental ability. The strength of a positive attitude is not measured in the amount of years but the amount of gumption and grit, and Tyler has a heck of a lot of it. It’s what consistently pushes him to climb higher and try harder, raising the stakes and reaching the peaks that people would never dream to touch.

With this impressive resume already under Tyler’s belt, what’s his next goal?

Get his driver’s license.

“Definitely on the top of my to-do list is having my car when I turn 16,” Tyler said. “I’d love a Jeep Wrangler. It has that beachy California feel and it also goes on the mountains. I like white. Maybe dark grey.”

As he prepares to take on the roads as readily as he scales mountains, Tyler is busy living his life as a climber and a high school freshman. Read on to learn more about what Tyler thinks of his past climbing expeditions, and what his plans are for the future.

What is your schedule like on a regular day?
A regular schedule for me is: I go to school. After school, I have water polo practice. After water polo at 4 p.m., I come home. Do homework. Eat and go to sleep. That’s my daily basis. I’m a freshman, and it’s very nice being in high school and having more freedom. I like high school sports—I play soccer and swim—and it’s been really nice so far.

How do you train for mountain climbing?
Usually with the sports I play, it keeps my cardio up, so that really helps with mountain climbing. Me and my dad go up to the mountains every weekend or every other weekend. We try to get out climbing as much as possible.

Do you climb with your dad often?
My dad is my primary climbing partner. He is always there, and it’s usually just us two in our local mountains. When the mountains don’t have snow on it, we usually try when I have free time, or if I don’t have homework over the weekend. When the mountains are covered in snow, we’re like, ‘OK, we are going.’ Usually when the snow hits, we are up there.

What is your mentality like when you are climbing?
Some of it is, ‘One step in front of the other.’ A lot of climbing is a mental game. You have to mentally prepare yourself. You have to mentally go through everything: the safety precautions when you are climbing; you have to make sure the snow is okay as far as avalanche purposes; you are constantly changing your warmth because you don’t want to be too cold or too hot. It’s a lot more than “one foot in front of the other” but at the same time, it is one foot in front of the other.

Do you remember the first time you thought, “I want to climb a mountain”?
The first time that I really thought about climbing, I was six. I saw a nature hiking documentary about the Great Divide. After seeing that, I was like, ‘That looks really cool.’ Now with any six-year-old, usually parents don’t think much of it, and think ‘Oh this will be gone tomorrow.’ But I talked to my dad and I was like, ‘We should try that.’ My dad is like, ‘You have to train, you have to work out, just so we can even attempt.’ But six-year-old me was like, ‘Okay.’ The next day, I was like, ‘Dad, let’s go jogging.’ The first time I jogged, I did a quarter mile. Then the next time, I did a half a mile. A month or two later, we did my first hike and I did great. Then I wanted something higher. Once we did higher, we were like, ‘Now let’s go for hard.’ Everything progresses to the next level.

Do you ever get scared?
Sometimes I do get scared. One time, I used to get scared of heights. I used to hate heights. When I was climbing Mount Rainier, I was crossing a crevasse. As I was looking down, I couldn’t see anything at all. I was scared. But I went across, and by the end of the climb, I was fine. I wasn’t scared of heights anymore. I think I got over my fears because I did something I didn’t think I could do. I did something that scared me, and I was like, ‘This is not that bad.’

But I do hate spiders.

And snakes.

And sharks.

What is it like to reach the top of a mountain?
Reaching the top of a mountain is pretty much like any other goal, like getting an A on a test or scoring the winning goal. It feels amazing. I remember when we were trying to get up the summit for 17 days on Mount Denali and then right when you hit the summit, all of your hard work, all of your training comes together, and you’ve finally reached this moment. It’s an amazing feeling. You literally feel like you’re on top of the world.

What’s the hardest part about being a climber?
The hardest part about being a climber is probably overcoming what your body and what your brain thinks it can’t do. A lot of climbing is a mental game, and your body and your mind are not going to think you can do it. But you have to tell yourself that you can do it. At some point, you will overcome it.

Where does your positive mental attitude come from?
The attitude come from the sports I play. For soccer, you get a goal scored on you, but you have to work with your team to overcome the mental challenges and bring back the game.

What is your favorite part about climbing?
Some of the main reasons why I love climbing…well, for one: the summit. Nothing feels better. I like the feeling when I push myself to do something and I succeed. Over the summer, we went to Peru and we tried ice climbing. I was skeptical and thinking, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do this.’ We go up, we did the ice climbing, and I loved it. This is my next thing; this is my next phase of mountain climbing. I find something in every mountain I can climb.

Did you ever have doubters as a kid? Were adults like, “Um, why are you doing this?”
A lot of people. When I was really young, people used to say, “Does your dad force you to do this? No way does a kid want to do this. A 9-year-old can’t do this, a kid can’t do this.” At a point, I’ve taken the negativity and I turn that into a way to overcome. I like showing that the other person is wrong. Before I was going to climb Mount Aconcagua, people said there was no way I was going to hit the summit. I summited the mountain, and it was the best feeling because all the people that said I couldn’t do it, it made them be quiet.

What does your family think of you climbing?
My mom used to get worried whenever me and my dad climbed. When your kid is doing something like this, you’re like, ‘Oh I don’t know.’ But my mom met my guide a few years later after I did Mount Aconcagua and she started to meet everyone and trust us all. When I started talking about climbing Mount Everest, my mom talked to me one day and was like “Tyler, you know this is a very deadly and hard mountain. Are you ready to take this one, and worse come to worst, you could die.” I was like, “Mom, if I died, there’d be no better way to die than on Everest.” After that, my mom realized, ‘Well, this is really what he loves to do.’

What do your classmates think?
At school, I don’t really tell people [that I climb] because I don’t feel there’s a reason to tell them. If I tell people, “Oh I climb mountains, oh I have records,” people start to suck up to you. They don’t really take you for who you are. I don’t tell people unless they’re real friends already.

What are your future goals?
We got back from Peru over the summer, and after that trip, I really liked ice climbing. Everest is still at the top of the bucket list. We need the funding still to climb that, but Everest is our main goal. We have to wait to get the permits and get the funding. Realistically, I really like ice climbing, and that’s what I want to do. Ice climbing is a lot more technical. It’s like rock climbing, but instead of rock, it’s ice. It’s so much fun to be on the ice at a vertical overhang. Plus there’s no better picture.

Aside from climbing, what other things do you enjoy or are passionate about?
Another thing aside from sports and climbing is… well, my friends mountain bike, and I tried it with them and I really liked it. That’s been a lot of fun.

What is something you want people to know about you?
I want people to know that I’m not your normal kid. If you throw a challenge in front of me, I’m going to go for it. Chances are I’m going to do everything I could have done to succeed. Age is like the cover of a book. People just see a 15-year-old climbing and doing an extreme sport, so everyone is like, ‘No way.’ Everyone doesn’t believe what they see.

What has Mother Nature taught you?
One thing that Mother Nature taught me is that on any mountain and any time, the weather will change. On Mount Denali, the weather can go from no wind, bright and sunny, super hot, but when the sun goes behind a mountain, instantly the temperature drops fifty degrees. Everything changes in an instant.

What do you see for your future in climbing?
I want to keep climbing as more of a hobby than an actual job. I like business; I take a business course at school and I really like it, so I think I’d love to be a businessman and with off time, as a hobby, take a few weeks off and go climb.

Will you climb the rest of your life?
Oh yeah. I’ll be one of this old guys on the mountain telling all these stories. That will be definitely be me.