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The Story Behind the Six-Year-Old Who Hiked Mount Whitney

Most six-year-olds spend their free time with tee-ball or ballet; not Eva Luna Harper-Zahn. The mini mountaineer is an ambitious little hiker—despite needing a nap break on the way to the summit. According to Backpacker, little Eva Luna hiked to the 14,505-foot summit of Mount Whitney last July. Inspiration for the adventure came from the most likely of places: a sibling rivalry.

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Prior to Whitney, the family hiked Mount Lassen and her three-year-old sister, Kira, didn’t need any assistance from her parents. Watching her sister handle Lassen like a champ inspired Eva Luna to step up her mountaineering game. When her father suggested Whitney, Eva Luna thought it would be fun. Her parents, who frequently take their four children camping or hiking, started preparing for the big adventure after Eva Luna made it clear she was serious. Like any arduous mountaineering objective, they trained through lots of hiking and exposure to high elevation. Then, last July, with a brisk 1 a.m. alpine start, Eva Luna, her nine-year-old brother, and father, Oliver, set out to climb Whitney.

Whitney’s 22-mile round trip hike and high elevation aren’t for the faint of heart, so the trio took the journey step by step. At 12,000 feet when she exhibited potential signs of altitude sickness, the party halted and Oliver began toying with turning around. Instead, the six-year-old opted for an hour-long power nap to recharge. Once rejuvenated, she got back on the trail and charged ahead. Six hours later, giggling, Eva Luna made it to the summit and cried tears of joy.

No official summit records for the mountain exist, but from their research, the family believes Eva Luna to be the second-youngest person and the youngest person of color to ever summit Whitney. With the outdoors being the homogeneous space that it is, Eva Luna's family see her summit as not only a success for her but other young kids of color who need more role models in this space. 

Moving forward Eva Luna hasn’t lost her determination, if anything, doing Whitney has only bolstered it. Her parents haven't announced what's next on her list, but now that she's seven the sky's the limit. 

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About The Author

stash member Katie Lozancich

TGR Staff Writer and photographer. Fond of bikes, pow, and dogs. Originally from Northern CA, home for me has ranged from the PNW to a teepee in Grand Teton National Park.