On May 25, Colorado resident Matt Moniz, 16, became the youngest person to summit 27,766-foot Makalu, the fifth tallest mountain in the world. The feat comes just a week after Moniz did the same on 26,905-foot Cho Oyu. The two peaks sit opposite each other, with Everest in between. Makalu is considered one of the most difficult mountains to climb on Earth, requiring technical rock/ice climbing on the final ascent.
Matt Moniz, along with his father Mike, is part of a small team engaged in the Triple 8 expedition – an ambitious plan to climb three 8,000-meter peaks in less than 15 days, including Everest. The notoriously tough Makalu was not part of the original plan.
"After Cho Oyu, we were supposed to be on Everest," says Mike Moniz, "but in light of the tragedy last month, no one felt that was morally or ethically right."
The April 18 avalanche that killed 16 Sherpa also destroyed the route the Moniz's were planning to take up both Everest and Lhoste, two of the Triple 8 peaks. In the past month, more than 300 international climbers have abandoned their goal of reaching Everest's summit.
The team substituted Makalu for Lhoste, but hasn't given up on Everest just yet. "There's another base camp on the north side of Everest that avoids the area impacted by the avalanche," says Moniz. "The problem is that it's in Tibet and you need a permit from China."
While Matt was climbing Makalu with teammate Willie Benegas and four Sherpa, Moniz stayed behind in Kathmandu to try and convince the Chinese Government to grant the required permits to climb Everest from the Tibet side. The task has proven difficult. Even with the help of key officials on both the U.S. and Chinese sides, Moniz has been unable to secure the permits.
He's running out of time. The weather in the first week of June should support a summit attempt on Everest, but after that, blizzard-bearing clouds accumulate around the mountain, starting the monsoon season and officially ending the climbing season.
"We have 48 hours to get the permit and still have enough time to handle all the logistics for climbing Everest," says Moniz. "As it stands, we may pull off three 8,000-meter peaks, and one may be Everest. But however it turns out, it's been one hell of a season."