The most important responsibility parents have is keeping their children safe and protecting them from harm. Their second most important job is raising them to be strong, independent, and intelligent adults.
So when a 7-year-old from Texas told her mother that she wanted to do something that kills around 10 trained adults each year, her first instinct was to say no. However, when the single-mom heard her daughter’s reason, she couldn’t refuse…
Last year, 45-year-old Hollie was talking to her friends after her sister backed out of a trip to Africa to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. At the time, she had no idea that her 7-year-old daughter was listening in on her conversation when she asked them if they would ever want to climb the mountain.
A Bold Claim
Not long after, Hollie’s daughter, Montannah, announced that she wanted to climb the famous 19,341-foot mountain. “She said to me, ‘Mommy I want to do it too,’” Hollie said. “I didn’t discount what she said but I knew she didn’t know the magnitude so we started researching it and looking at videos…”
Doing The Research
During their research, the pair read about how only ⅔ of the people who attempt to climb the mountain actually make it up, and about 10 people die each year on the mountain. They also read about the dangers involved in the climb, including altitude sickness, storms, and falls. But it did nothing to dissuade Montannah.
An Athlete But Not A Mountain Climber
Hollie, a former professional triathlete, always encouraged Montannah to be active and play sports. However, even though the 7-year-old spent her time outside of school training for triathlons, swimming, running, playing basketball, and playing soccer, Hollie knew she wasn’t strong enough to climb Mount Kilimanjaro…
The Reality Of The Situation
“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,” said the 45-year-old, who runs a swim coaching business. Montannah promised she would do whatever it took to prepare, so Hollie agreed to train her.
Too Young To Climb
Part of the reason Hollie agreed at first was that the minimum age requirement to climb Mount Kilimanjaro is 10, so she believed she had a few years to train Montannah for the dangerous climb. But then Hollie started reading reports of kids younger than 10 reaching the summit…
A Special Permit
In late January 2018, Hollie found out about an 8-year-old girl from Florida who was the youngest girl to climb to the summit and found out that she had gotten a special permit for kids under 10. “I woke up Montannah the next morning and said, ‘If you want this record, we have to go when you’re still seven,’” Hollie said.
“I knew she had spring break in March and we planned the entire trip in a month-and-a-half,” said Hollie, who reached out to experts and nurses on how to ascend and descend the mountain safely with a 7-year-old. During their planning, Hollie considered every scenario that they could face and planned a longer route to ease them into higher elevations to avoid altitude sickness…
The Training Begins
Then, Hollie got Montannah the special permit she would need, stocked up on all the gear they could need and hired a guide. Meanwhile, Hollie had begun their grueling training schedule, which consisted of 4 to 8-hour hikes on the weekends and shorter hikes during the school week.
Training A Child
“When she decided to do this, I knew what kind of training she needed to do and I didn’t want to rob her of her childhood over that month and a half,” said Hollie, who made sure to practice spelling and math problems with Montannah on their hikes, and even invited friends along to make it more fun…
Fighting Past The Exhaustion
“It taught her how to really just stay on her toes with tired legs,” Hollie said. “Which is exactly what you want to do on the mountain.” During their training, the 2 would often talk about what they would experience on the mountain and the reasons they were taking on such a challenge.
An Adventure Seeker
“I want to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro because it would be a fun adventure with my mom, and because it would be really cool to try to break the world record, but I would want to climb it anyway because I don’t care if I break it,” Montannah said when asked about why she wanted to climb the mountain…
Above The Clouds
However, when Montannah found out she would be above the clouds, the first thing she thought about was her dad, who struggled with PTSD and died a week after her 3rd birthday. “When we talked about the mountain being above the clouds, she immediately associated that with heaven and it resonated with her,” Hollie said.
“She loved that idea of being closer to her dad and asked me if she was going to be able to see him,” said Hollie, who knew in that moment that Montannah now had the motivation she would need to overcome whatever they faced on the mountain…
Climbing To Heaven
“The higher I go, the closer I am to him in heaven,” Montannah said. In early March 2018, Hollie and Montannah headed to Tanzania and began their ascent up Mount Kilimanjaro from base camp on the 10th with their guides and enough supplies to last them more than the 6 days it would take to reach the summit.
“There were points I thought we wouldn’t make it,” Hollie said. “Beyond the first day, it rained every single day. Everything we owned was wet. By day five, we were putting on wet clothes to go out in the freezing weather.” But no matter what challenges the pair faced, Montannah never got scared or wanted to turn back…
Committed To The Climb
“She never, ever questioned what she was doing,” Hollie said. “Every day I asked Montannah if this was harder or easier than she thought it would be, and every day she answered, ‘Easier.’” During the climb to the summit on the 6th day, it was so cold and slippery that it took 7.5 hours to go 3 miles, but Montannah declared it was the ‘best day ever’ 2 times that day.
Breaking The World Record
Eventually, Hollie and Montannah reached the summit on March 16, and according to Hollie, Montannah really was looking for her dad. “I blew kisses at Dad so he knew I was there,” Montannah said. “I don’t think she understands the magnitude of what she did,” Hollie said about her 7-year-old, who now holds the world record for the youngest girl to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro…
After descending the mountain, the pair traveled around Tanzania, visited beaches, and went on safari through the Serengeti plains before finally returning home to Texas. “I think that was super exciting for us. It’s something she’ll be able to look back on and smile,” Hollie said. “I’m her only parent and I’m an older parent and I want to build these awesome memories with my child.”
Following Their Dreams
“This was really a cool thing for her and it’s kind of setting her up in life for some pretty amazing things. To be able to provide the ability for Montannah to follow a dream that she wants to do, there’s no price tag,” Hollie said. “Our philosophy in life is to be somebody and to go out there and do something with your life. This goes along with our motto, and we’ll continue this the rest of our life. We want our life to have purpose.”