After climbing Mount Everest, Naperville teen is a national celebrity, local hero
Since becoming the youngest American woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, Naperville's Lucy Westlake has added two more titles.
National celebrity and local hero.
After safely descending from the highest point on the planet back to civilization, the 18-year-old took time to relax, celebrate and talk about the experience Friday morning on NBC's "Today Show."
"It was absolutely incredible," she told NBC's Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb from a hotel in Nepal. "I just couldn't imagine that I was at the top of the world."
Back home in Naperville, folks couldn't be prouder.
"As is evident by her latest accomplishment, she is an incredibly unique young person who has accomplished a great deal in her 18 years," said Dan Iverson, her cross country coach at Naperville North High School, "in this case doing something that literally no other American woman has ever done at so young an age."
Westlake reached the summit of Mount Everest at about 7:30 p.m. Central time on Wednesday, guided by Sherpa Mingma Chhiring. She had spent seven days on the upper mountains beyond base camp, leaving at about 9 p.m. local time for the summit.
After climbing through the night, she reached the peak at more than 29,000 feet about an hour after the sun rose.
When Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico heard the news, he was thrilled for Westlake and awed by the achievement.
"Wow, what a feat to be able to do that," Chirico said. "People who do really physical accomplishments like running a marathon and things like that, it's amazing. But those stories aren't that uncommon.
"But someone doing something like this, it's just incredible," he said.
It's the latest step in Westlake's attempt to complete the Explorers Grand Slam, a challenge to reach the North and South poles and climb the highest mountains in each of the seven continents, also known as the Seven Summits. She hopes to become the youngest person to accomplish the feat, topping a Japanese woman who was 20 when she finished in 2017.
Westlake has ascended Denali in Alaska, Europe's Mount Elbrus, Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua in South America, and now Mount Everest in Asia. The remaining sites on the list are Mount Vinson in Antarctica, Carstensz Pyramid north of Australia and both poles.
Completing the Explorers Grand Slam will have to take a back seat for the immediate future. In the fall, she will head to the University of Southern California, where she will be on scholarship competing for the cross country and track and field teams.
But first, she'll try to make it home in time for Naperville North's graduation ceremony on May 22.
"I've always been adventurous, and I've always loved the mountains," Westlake told the "Today Show."
"But as the mountains grew and it got harder, I really had to find that deeper motivation to still want to do them," she said. "It's really just pushing my limits. I just want to see how far my body and mind can go, and I hope to inspire others to do the same."