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Kid is a mountaineering champ!

He's only 4 feet tall and 8 years old. But Aidan Gold is already a veteran mountaineer who's left tracks on peaks in the Cascades, Alps & the Himalayas.

india Updated: Jan 03, 2006 18:27 IST

He's only 4 feet tall and 8 years old. But Aidan Gold is already a veteran mountaineer who's left tracks on peaks in the Cascades, the Alps and the Himalayas.

"This glacier here is higher than Mount Rainier, even though there are plants," Gold told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer at the family home in north suburban Bothell, pointing out a dark line in a photo of the Himalayas' Island Peak. "The top of this is way higher than that."

Aidan climbed 20,300-foot mountain with his father and several guides in November. His father, Warren Gold, said members of the Nepal Mountaineering Association told him Aidan is likely the youngest person to make the summit.

That was the high point of the family's four-month climbing and hiking adventure, which took them from Switzerland to Katmandu. Aidan and his dad also reached the peak of 10,400-foot Haustock and 13,400-foot Monch in the Alps, and 17,200-foot Awi Peak near Everest. The whole family, including 5-year-old Janick, made it to the 17,700-foot Everest base camp.

Aidan said the toughest stretch for him was a 45-degree face of rock and ice on Haustock.

"It's the worse 3,000 feet I've ever done," he said.

Gold said he wanted to give his sons an appreciation of a world less touched by humans.

"A mix of wonder and adventure, that's what you get in the mountains," said the associate professor of ecology and environmental science at the University of Washington-Bothell campus. His wife, Julia, accompanied him and their sons on the sabbatical trip, and Gold conducted high-altitude ecology research.

Aidan says he likes climbing for the challenge and the view.

"I got cold two times in Nepal. No times in Switzerland," Aidan said, adding, "Boy, a morning at 17,000 feet is cold."

Aidan's first climb was Mount Si, near North Bend, at age 3. His parents say Aidan has an uncanny focus, and is undaunted by the effort and the monotony of climbing for hours at a stretch.

Part of that focus is due to Asperger Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism diagnosed when Aidan was 3 years old. Such people tend to have an intensity of focus, and typically don't do so well in social settings.

Aidan is an accomplished storyteller, though. He writes stories and reads them aloud, and last winter won a story slam at Seattle's Paramount Theatre.

He also has a passion for complicated origami, the Japanese art of paper folding. The family Christmas tree is loaded with origami figures, some based on diagrams in a book and some designed by Aidan's original designs.

His other love, the mountains, can be risky business, his father concedes.

"I really think the most dangerous thing we did the whole trip was crossing the street in Katmandu," Warren Gold said.

First Published: Jan 03, 2006 18:27 IST