Fourth-grader may be the youngest girl in Colorado to summit famed 19,340-foot peak
Helen Simons “HS” Berenyi, 9-year-old Silverton resident and a fourth grader at Silverton School, summited Mount Kilimanjaro on Friday, Jan. 10 at 10:08 a.m, Tanzanian time.
“HS,” just six days short of her 10th birthday was one of four climbers who successfully summited with She Climbs, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to build and strengthen the self-esteem of female individuals of all ages, one mountain climb at a time.
This is Berenyi’s first time climbing and living on a mountain for seven days.
“I want all 10-year-olds out there to know that you can do just about anything you want to,” Helen said at the summit.
While fact-checking is still underway, HS appears to be the youngest Colorado resident, and potentially the youngest American female to ever summit Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak on the African continent, topping out at 5,895 meters or 19,340 feet above sea level.
Kilimanjaro is one of the famous “Seven Summits” of the world.
Alexis, “Lexi” Peats, age 11 of Perrysburg, Ohio, also summited with her mother, Suzanne Peats.
“These two are amongst the youngest kids in my 371 summits of Kilimanjaro, said Lead Climbing Guide, “Raj” Rajabu Hasan of KCB, a local Tanzanian climbing outfitter. “They were strong from the first day to the last day, with no signs of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). The girls made it to the summit in 7-1/2 hours. Some of my climbers have taken 12 hours in the past,” said Hasan.
Dubbed the “Binti Group” by Hasan, (Binti in Swahili means daughter), the girls are amongst She Climbs’ first organized trip.
“As we launch She Climbs it only seemed natural that we form mother-daughter teams from my personal sphere of climbers that I have previously climbed with” said Cokie Berenyi, Helen Berenyi’s mom and founder of She Climbs and investment firm, Alphavest.com.
Despite this being She Climbs’ first trip, the organization and mission have been evolving since 2006 shortly after Berenyi gave birth to her second daughter.
“As a new mother of two girls I was terrified of all that could go wrong with raising girls,” Berenyi said. “It was very clear to me that the key to successfully raising them was to do everything I could to build their self-esteem and confidence—this was when the idea of She Climbs was born.”
Cokie first summited Mount Kilimanjaro in 2010, which served as She Climbs research effort.
“Reaching summits of this altitude require great focus, determination and persistence and the personal satisfaction of reaching the top is intoxicating and motivating. It is a great environment to test your mental and physical limits and grow your confidence, all of which which can be a powerful tool in navigating life. Climbing is an excellent venue to achieve the goals of She Climbs” said Suzanne Peats or “Mama Lexi” to the Trip Guides and Tanzanian support team.
Mandy Ramsden, principal at QuestCo and Johannesburg, South Africa resident, helped in organizing the successful Kilimanjaro summit trip.
Ramsden is South Africa’s first woman to summit the “7 Summits” of the world and serves on She Climbs’ Advisory Board.
“Cokie and I climbed together in Bolivia in 2011. She approached me then about supporting She Climbs and I have been thrilled to be a part of supporting women of all ages build, re-build and find themselves on mountains,” said Ramsden.
Sheldon Kerr, a Colorado resident, and professional mountain guide who actively guides on Kilimanjaro, Denali and in the Cascades also assisted in the trip’s organization. Kerr also serves on She Climbs’ Board.
“I knew the girls could do it. The key was whether or not they wanted the summit bad enough. Clearly they did!” Kerr said.
For more about She Climbs’ program and mission, visit www.she-climbs.org or call (843) 670-2622.