At age 7, Montannah Kenney just became the youngest girl to reach Mt. Kilimanjaro’s 19,341-foot summit. But she didn’t do it for fame.
She did it for her father, who died in 2013, Montannah told The Austin American-Statesmen before leaving for Africa.
“The higher I go, the closer I am to him in heaven,” she told the publication.
Montannah’s father died seven days after her third birthday after struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a GoFundMe page set up by the family to raise money for research and treatment of people with PTSD. The page has raised $735 of its $30,000 goal as of Sunday, April 8.
The Austin, Texas, girl began her climb March 10 with her mother, Hollie Kenney, 45, a former professional triathlete who acted as her coach, reported ABC News. They reached the summit March 16, making Montannah the youngest girl – and one of the youngest climbers, period – to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, according to a site that tracks records on the mountain.
Keats Boyd in 2008 and Cash Callahan in 2018, both 7 when they reached the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, hold the record for youngest climber on the mountain, the site says, though it’s not clear which one was the youngest at the time. At a few days older than Cash, Montannah missed out on the youngest climber title but seized the record for youngest female climber.
Montannah asked to join her mother in scaling Mt. Kilimanjaro after hearing Kenney discuss it with friends, ABC News reported.
“I was very real with her, explaining that people can get very sick, that we’d have to train very hard and it wouldn’t be an easy task,” Kenney told the network, but Montannah was undeterred – especially when she learned about the view from the summit.
“When we talked about the mountain being above the clouds, she immediately associated that with heaven and it resonated with her,” Kenney 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 and her mother prepared for the trip by hiking, according to The Austin American-Statesman
They had initially planned to take the trip when Montannah was older – climbers must normally be at least 10 years old to scale Mt. Kilimanjaro – but then Kenney saw news reports about other young children climbing the peak, the publication reported. She obtained a special permit allowing Montannah to attempt the climb.
After a hectic month and a half of planning, mother and daughter took off for Africa over Montannah’s spring break from school, reported Fox News. Following a six-day climb through incessant rain with a guide and support staff of 25, they reached the summit at 8 a.m. March 16.
Kenney told the network Montannah was “really looking” in the sky for her father when they reached the peak, and said being in the clouds closer to her dad “just made her happy.” She called it a “dreamy” experience.
“This was really a cool thing for her and it’s kind of setting her up in life for some pretty amazing things,” Kenney told Fox News. “To be able to provide the ability for Montannah to follow a dream that she wants to do, there’s no price tag.”
An estimated 25,000 people set out each year to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, a dormant volcano in Tanzania. About two-thirds make it to the top of the mountain, the tallest in Africa.