Daily Herald opinion: Teen's Everest achievement reminds us we all can meet difficult challenges

  • Naperville 18-year-old Lucy Westlake sits on top of the world as the youngest American woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

    Naperville 18-year-old Lucy Westlake sits on top of the world as the youngest American woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Courtesy of Lucy Westlake

  • Courtesy of Lucy WestlakeThis is Naperville 18-year-old Lucy Westlake's view from the summit of Mount Everest.

    Courtesy of Lucy WestlakeThis is Naperville 18-year-old Lucy Westlake's view from the summit of Mount Everest.

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 5/17/2022 11:42 AM
This editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Daily Herald Editorial Board.

Lucy Westlake has many of us feeling, well, inadequate, staid, boring and risk averse.

To be fair, she's only 18. What does she know? She knows what it's like to be the youngest American female to summit Mount Everest. And that's more than most of us will ever know.

 

We've been following the young Napervillian as a student athlete and mountain climber for five years.

"It was absolutely incredible," she told Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb on NBC's "Today Show" from a hotel in Nepal once she'd scrambled back down the mountain. "I just couldn't imagine that I was at the top of the world."

While Everest -- whose summit is 5.5 miles above sea level -- is a pinnacle, it's not the pinnacle of her climbing career, she says.

She wants to complete what's known as the Explorers Grand Slam -- reaching the North and South poles and climbing highest peaks in each of the seven continents.

If she wants to be the youngest person to do that, she'll have to beat a Japanese woman who did so at 20.

However, she has already summited five of those peaks. She has only Antarctica and Australia to climb, plus get to the two poles.

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Time's a wastin', Lucy.

But first things first. She will be graduating with her Naperville North High School classmates next Sunday.

While Lucy is enjoying her time in the spotlight and she's a natural, she's doing this for herself, not the recognition. "It's really just pushing my limits," she said. "I just want to see how far my body and mind can go, and I hope to inspire others to do the same."

And that's what we should all take from this experience.

Not many of us are able to handle the physical and mental extremes of mountain climbing, nor perhaps that specific interest. That's a given.

But most of us do have abilities we don't know we have. If you don't try something, you'll never know whether you can accomplish it -- whether that's going a day without cigarettes, entering a dance contest, taking up bowling, learning to play the ukulele, doing the Sunday New York Times crossword in pen or a million other things.

After all, Lucy climbed stairs before she stepped foot on a mountain.

It's truly remarkable how much strength of spirit can do to propel you forward. That's the message here.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Few of us have the wherewithal to travel the world and climb mountains. But that shouldn't stop us from challenging ourselves.

This is what makes life worth living.

So, good lucky, Lucy. We'll keep following you and keep being inspired by you. And with any luck we'll manage to do something that will inspire you back.

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