A South Florida boy not even old enough to drive has a new prized possession: a piece of volcanic rock he picked up on the summit of Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro.
Nico Saporito, a slight-built 11-year-old, recently became one of the youngest people to reach the peak of Kilimanjaro, the tallest free-standing mountain in the world and one of the biggest volcanoes on Earth.
How'd he do it? "Just go one foot in front of the other, one foot in front of the other," he told NBC Miami. "I kept on saying that over and over and pretty much made it.”
Saporito’s father, Robert Saporito, was inspired to complete a father-son climb while watching the Discovery Channel when Nico was just nine, NBC Miami reports.
“I saw it as an opportunity that if he was going to accomplish this he could use it as a stepping stone to tackle other challenges he will face in later life,” Robert told the station.
Tens of thousands of people attempt to climb the East African mountain every year. But climbers put themselves at risk for hypothermia, fatal falls and altitude sickness – the single biggest killer on the mountain, according to online climbing guides. In the months leading up to their climb, Nico and his father prepared for the air at 19,000 feet above sea level by wearing masks that gave them limited oxygen.
After four days of a treacherous climb and with the help of two guides, the duo reached the summit.
"Like, I saw the sign and I said, 'Oh, my God we made it!'" Nico recalled to NBC Miami.
The youngest person to ever climb Kilimanjaro was seven. But even though Nico did not break any records, he has 1,200 photographs, a certificate signed by the park superintendent and the rock souvenir to prove he conquered one of the world’s toughest climbs.