Ashleen Mandrick, six, from Brighton Road, reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania twice on September 29 and October 13 – becoming the youngest person on earth to climb the 5,895m-high mountain. It is believed she beat the record held by American Montannah Kenney, who was seven years and 10 months old when she summited.
Her mother Victoria, who grew up in Africa, said: “Ashleen was very happy and proud, but not particularly because of the record but rather because she loved the attention and the whole adventure: the rocky parts; the atmosphere – chatting and singing with the guides and porters all the way to the summit; dancing in the camps; meeting other climbers; ‘helping’ the cook prepare dinner in the evenings; the flora and fauna – she had a little book about local vegetation where she was checking out the plants she encountered. She was also very happy to stand on top of ‘mummy’s continent’.”
According to Victoria, her daughter’s passion for climbing began in the Alps earlier this year, on a family hike after skiing. The legal age to climb the mountain is 10, so after getting permission from the authorities Ashleen took on the challenge. She enjoyed it so much she did it again: this time on the Umbwe route, considered the ‘hardest and steepest trail’, Victoria said, adding: “According to information given to us at registration at Kilimanjaro National Park, no child under 12 (or even a bit older) has ever attempted it.” Ashleen’s brother Nicholas, 11, accompanied her on both occasions and again on October 12, becoming the youngest person to reach the summit three times in a two-week period, Victoria said.
The second climb was great, despite ‘harsh weather conditions’, Victoria said: “We had six days of continuous rain, snowfall, strong winds and temperatures well below zero on summit day. One of the camps was closed for days as lots of tents – including our dining tent – were blown away by the wind. We were trekking through ‘rivers’ of rain reaching up to our knees. On summit day it was so cold that our water bottles got frozen already on the way up to the peak.” So what is next for the young record holder? “Ashleen’s big dream is to climb the Matterhorn one day as it is very technical,” her mother said
Ashleen Mandrick’s feat amazed experienced mountaineers and guides after she refused offers of being carried or helped as she scaled the 19,341ft mountain entirely unaided.
She first reached the top on September 29 before returning on October 13. Her first climb took six days while the second took just five. Mrs Mandrick said Ashleen had broken the record held by American girl Montannah Kenney, who reached the summit aged seven years and ten months last year.