Little Boy; Big Mountain

CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman for this week's Assignment America has an update on his story about the little boy with the mountain-sized dream … to be the youngest person to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.



Although no one said it out loud, it was clear the first day that 7-year-old Keats Boyd would probably not make it to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. At just four feet tall, the kid could barely conquer a fallen log. There was just no way he was going to make it all the way up Africa's tallest mountain.

That was obvious to everyone … except for Keats.

"It's not impossible to do something," Keats said. "You just have to believe in yourself to do it."

Hartman first met Keats a few months ago, when they walked with Keats' dad along the relatively tame trails near their home in Los Angeles. And, for some reason, Hartman got the sense that it wasn't such a good idea.

"The conditions were obviously that it was safe," Keats' father said just before his son took a tumble.

Also, Keats doesn't come from a mountain-climbing family. In fact, his parents, Brian and Dana, say they don't even like stairs.

"It's absolutely nature and not nurture in his case because we didn't raise him to sit around and think, let's go climb big mountains," TK said.

They say their son got the bug a couple years ago after he saw a Kilimanjaro special on TV. Unfortunately, watching it and climbing it are two very different things. It's more than 19,000 feet up, through every climate zone on earth. By day five, the wind chill was 30 below zero.

"Oh my gosh, you remember you cried?" Keats' dad asked him. "You were so cold."

"Yeah," Keats said.

"I was cold too. But, I told you that if we walked and we kept going we'd get warm. And did you?" his dad asked.

"And you were right," Keats said.

"Aww, that's nice. I'll probably never hear that again," his father, Brian, said.

Hartman asked Keats: "Did your dad ever say 'Keats, lets just turn around'?

"Yeah, many times," Keats said.

"What do you say to him?" Hartman asked.

"Up. Steve Up? Keats: Yeah."

Nat Keats "I'm gonna try to make the summit today."

Despite everyone's lowly expectations, Keats was all the way to within 3,000 feet of the top, when all of a sudden, the weather turned decidedly nasty, even by Kilmanjaro standards. They passed climbers who were giving up and heading down.

"Like strong people," Brian said. "They were complaining and not doing."

Five hours later, 7-year-old Keats Boyd became the youngest person to ever summit Mount Kilimanjaro.

His parents still wonder: What on earth is he going to want to do when he's eight?



If you'd like to learn more about the program Keats started before his expedition, check out its Web site, Climb A Volcano. You can also check out the places the donations he collected went to help fund: Kids of Kilimanjaro and The Jane Goodall Institute.
  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.

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