Photo: Portrait of Matt Moniz at base camp

Photograph courtesy Matt Moniz

Kid Climber

Matt Moniz climbed to the highest point in all 50 United States in just 43 days.

His first expedition was to Everest Base Camp. His dad’s friend dropped out at the last minute, so Matt Moniz took his spot. Even though the kid from Colorado hadn’t done any mountaineering before, he bagged what he describes as “a little 18,000-footer” on a day hike. “After that,” Moniz says, “I was hooked. I’d just had the best time of my life.” He was nine. The next year Moniz climbed Kilimanjaro and Russia’s Elbrus, then, after turning 10, he summitted 22,841-foot Aconcagua.

From June to August this year, at the ripe old age of 12, Moniz and his climbing partner (and father), Mike, reached the highest point in all 50 United States—from 20,320-foot Denali to Florida’s 345-foot Britton Hill—in just 43 days. In the Midwest and South, they traveled by twin engine Cessna and an old Mercedes Sprinter. On Washington’s Rainer, they got caught in a storm before the final push to the summit. But the hardest section, what they called “the loop of pain” was Utah’s King’s Peak, Wyoming’s Gannett, and Montana’s Granite—all of which required at least a 32-mile loop in and back. By the end, the Moniz men had hit all 50 hills and mountains with the fastest time on record. Matt, of course, is the youngest ever to pull off this feat—and he’s become an eloquent advocate for kids getting outdoors. The only thing more impressive, maybe, is his sixth grade paper about what he did on his summer vacation.
—By Ryan Bradley

IN OUR OWN WORDS

By Matt and Mike Moniz

Most Beautiful
Matt Moniz: There were some really surprising, beautiful mountains. Guadeloupe Peak in Texas jumps out. It’s right on the border. There are like 500 species of plants and trees unique to the mountain. There’s one tree that has bright red bark, and it's the only place in the world it grows. Half of the mountain is gradual slope; the other half is 2,000-foot vertical cliff. It’s just a complete wall. And it’s the only thing there in the middle of plains and desert.

Americana
Mike Moniz: Up by the Great Lakes, we were landing in the middle of cornfields. In Wisconsin we had to buzz the runway to get all the cows off. By Louisiana, a lot of the summits were drive-ups.

Matt: In Kansas, we got to one at 2 a.m., climb up in the mud, and at the summit was a little mailbox with an iron sunflower on it. Mount Sunflower, it’s called. A lot of states put pride in their highest points, but Mississippi was the only one that wasn’t very interesting—just a three-inch concrete pillar in the middle of this circular grass thing. But that didn't last long. Two months later we returned to Mount Woodall for the Highpointers Convention and found an impressive new monument on the summit.

The Luckiest Climb

Mike: Matt has a set of Buddha eyes that have become famous all over the world—he brings this unbelievably good weather window for summit days. Even so, on Rainier, we got caught in a really horrendous storm on the summit push. We couldn’t even escape Camp Muir. The next morning we woke up around 4:30 a.m. and the storm had inverted and was raging 1,000 feet below. So we cruised to the summit.


A Side Project

Matt: I wanted to try and find the best root beer and best hot chocolate in the country. The best root beer was at the base of Mount Rainier. I don’t even know what it was. I think it might have been microbrewed. The best hot chocolate was in Ruth’s Chris in Salt Lake City.

How to Hustle
Matt: Kings Peak was 40 miles, round trip.

Mike: The night before Matt had eaten a steak about the same size as him.

Matt: We did the whole trip in one day. Started at 10 p.m., we hiked through whole night. At 6 a.m., we sat down and slept for about an hour, got back up, and did rest of the trip. By this point we were doing a lot of running,Mike: Matt was kind of peaking right then.Matt: Also, we were chased by swarms of mosquitoes for the last six miles.

Too Young?
Mike: I never really embraced the whole notion of age records. It seems to cascade in the wrong direction. While we hope to someday climb more peaks together, the Himalaya are a whole other game. We’re going to wait until Matt has an adult mind for that.

A (Small) Soapbox
Matt: I’m an ambassador for Outdoor Nation, and in the middle of the trip this summer, I took a day off in New York City, for this youth summit in Central Park. It’s important to try to encourage kids to go outside and protect public land. In another 30 years, if we had a president who just grew up in the city and played video games all his life, he might not be as focused on protecting our land.