This profile on adventure-seeker Johnny Strange is the third piece in a series on Malibu High School athletes. The column will now expand to include athletes community-wide as well.
For most people, climbing Mount Everest is an unattainable goal. However, Malibu High junior Johnny Strange is not like most people.
Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain when measured from sea level, has an elevation of more than 29,000 feet, or about five and a half miles. Of the brave individuals who attempt to climb Everest, many more fail than are successful, and hundreds of people have died trying to climb the mountain. Climbers have to deal with the lack of oxygen, extreme weather and avalanches.
Undaunted, Strange was determined to reach the summit. The Malibu resident had to train for countless hours, listen to many doubters and even change schools. Strange attended Malibu High for his freshman and sophomore years of high school, but transferred to Colin McEwen High School this year to have the scheduling flexibility to travel to Everest. He plans to return to Malibu High next year for his senior year.
On May 20, Strange achieved his goal and reached the summit of Everest, becoming one of the youngest individuals to accomplish that feat.
In addition, Strange climbed the 7,310-foot Mount Kosciuszko last week in Australia. This accomplishment made him the youngest person in the world to have climbed the Seven Summits, or the highest peaks on all seven continents.
You are only 17, and you have climbed Mount Everest. How does that feel?
It feels good to have accomplished a goal that I have been after for a while, and I hope the experience gives me strength for the challenges to come.
When the hiking became tough, what motivated you to climb on?
It is nice when a lot of people believe in you, but when a lot more people want you to fail, it drives me harder.
A lot of people never thought you would reach the top of Everest. How did it feel when you reached the summit?
To be honest I was tired, hungry and only halfway done. But when I reached the bottom I was happy. Knowing I was the underdog made my small victory all the better.
At the summit, you left a flag with the message “Stop genocide” and “Cure Parkinson’s.” Why did you choose these causes?
A close friend of my dad, and an inspirational person to me, has the disease. However, it does not hold him back, which is incredible, but the disease is horrible and a cure could be found. I felt it was my responsibility to put that flag there. Genocide is a touchy subject for me because I feel it is one of the biggest problems in the world, and the people who can do something about it should. But then again, I am just a kid, and my opinion does not matter yet, which also frustrates me.
How did you train to be able to climb Everest?
I cross-trained a lot with [the martial arts] Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I also had a breathing device that restricted airflow into my lungs when I ran or did push-ups. The mountain is more mental than physical, though, so often I would just hang out with my friends and relax.
You witnessed from afar a Sherpa guide killed by an avalanche. How did seeing that affect you?
Death is a part of life that we cannot escape, as much as we like to think we can. But, in reality, that is what happens up there, and all I could really do was hope his family is OK and that no one else gets injured.
When did you first decide you wanted to climb Mount Everest?
I first decided I wanted to climb Mount Everest when I was 12. To my dismay, it was decided for me that I was too young.
What is your next goal?
Actions speak louder then words, and my words mean nothing without actions. I have an idea of my next adventure, but I would only like to discuss it once I know for certain I am going to do it.