Angel More has reached heights that most kids her age have only seen by airplane.
To be exact, 19,341 feet is an altitude that commercial airliners pass on their ascent or descent.
But while the 12-year-old's peers may have climbed to such peaks through a fuselage, Angel has relied only on her feet. At the age of 10, she set foot on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa — reportedly becoming the youngest girl to ever do so.
Many climbers call Kilimanjaro the pinnacle of their mountaineering aspirations, but for Angel, a seventh-grader at the San Carlos Charter Learning Center in San Mateo County, it was just a step toward even greater heights.
“I like doing challenges. I like that I can do things that other people might not be able to do, and I like to test my abilities,” said Angel, recalling the “amazing” feeling of reaching the top of Africa.
Next month, the determined youngster will begin a 19-day expedition in hopes of becoming the youngest girl ever to summit 22,841-foot Mount Aconcagua in Argentina, the highest peak in South America and the Western and Southern hemispheres. She will take on the epic trek as part of a goal to raise through a Crowdrise campaign $100,000 for Children International, a nonprofit organization that works to empower children and families to overcome the challenges of poverty.
A THIRST FOR CHALLENGE
Physical challenge already seems to be a way of life for Angel.
Beyond her mountaineering feats — which include summiting the highest point in the continental U.S., Mount Whitney (14,505 feet) in the Sierra Nevada — she has swam from the shore of San Francisco to Alcatraz and back, along with the 6 miles between the Golden Gate and Bay bridges. And she has completed bike rides of more than 60 miles.
Angel has achieved all this and more before being able to see a PG-13 movie on her own.
“It goes back to the whole challenge thing — I really want to challenge myself, but also, I want to stand out so people could notice me and I want to be an example for other people who might doubt themselves, to do what they want to do,” she explained of her drive for physical feats.
That motivation to constantly test herself might be in her DNA, as her parents themselves have taken part in the hiking expeditions and run several marathons. Her father will join her in a hiking group with trail guides on Aconcagua, and Angel's 6-year-old sister, who has joined in on some of the family's excursions, might be primed for future standout endeavors of her own.
Away from her physical pursuits, Angel remains active in the after-school math program Kumon and the Toastmasters public-speaking club. Hoping to enter a career where she would frequently be around people, she envisions becoming a movie director because “with the movies, you can touch people's hearts.”
Angel acknowledges that some people do not believe a young person should take on her challenges, but she notes that her friends and family are nothing but encouraging. It was her parents, after all, who sparked her interest in hiking at the age of 4.
“There are many things I enjoy about [hiking], one thing is that there's a lot of time to think about things that you can do,” she said.
One of those ideas that came up during a hike was an opportunity to help out Children International by using one of her passions: climbing to the top of a mountain.
TREKKING FOR YOUTH PROGRAMS
Angel, whose family has also sponsored a child through Kansas City, Mo.-based Children International's programs, was inspired to support the nonprofit during a trip to a center in Guatemala where she met kids with limited resources but who had big dreams like hers.
“I saw all the kids working together and I believe that they can do great things,” Angel said of how increased resources can help children involved in the organization's programs across the world.
According to Children International, the youth programs aim to teach youth in impoverished communities the skills they need to stay safe and healthy, complete school and job training, and find fulfilling employment.
One of those programs Angel hopes to benefit focuses on empowerment, which she said can teach the youths to stand up for themselves and encourage each other.
Angel's Crowdrise online funding campaign has so far raised more than $20,000, weeks before she sets off on her Aconcagua hike beginning Dec. 13.
“It's very similar to what we're trying to do with all the youth that are in our program,” said Kathryn Phelps, Children International's director of programs. “The fact that she's empowered, that she can go out and communicate with people — that's exactly the same kind of thing we're trying to do in the country and communities where we're working.”
Phelps said that while contributors have devised a variety of unique ways to support the nonprofit, she's not aware of another youngster taking on a cause in quite the same fashion as Angel.
“I think it's neat that she can express herself and raise awareness for what we consider an important cause — giving other kids that opportunity to feel empowered,” Phelps said.
ALWAYS STRIVING FOR MORE
As she approaches each of her challenges, Angel is confident she can complete her goals due to her training dedication.
For Aconcagua, the preparation includes climbing some of the highest points in the Sierra Nevada to acclimate to the high altitude and the cold. She also attributes her open-water swimming to helping build up lung capacity and tolerance for cold temperatures.
“I expect it to be cold and a high altitude, but I also expect it to be amazing and really fun,” she said of the South American journey.
The young adventurer admitted that the only thing that produces any sense of fear is the prospect that she might not reach the top.
“I think it will be awesome, and if I can achieve that goal of raising $100,000 then I can do anything I want to do,” she said.
For Hemant More, who quipped that he merely tries to keep up with his daughter, the feeling will be equally as special.
“I would feel very elated for her achievement, but also for me, it would be a big step because I haven't done anything like that before,” More said.
Angel's pursuits will hardly stop with Aconcagua. She is already considering swimming the English Channel, and yes, even taking a crack at the mother of all mountains, Everest — though it may take some convincing of her mother.
“I just want to set an example for other kids who are also doing challenging things,” Angel said.