Britton Keeshan ’00 Recounts Seven Summits Quest at All-School Meeting

After reaching the summit of Mount Everest last May, Britton Keeshan ’00 became the youngest person ever to climb the world’s seven highest mountains. At this Wednesday’s All-School Meeting Mr. Keeshan discussed his five-year quest and the trials and triumphs that accompanied it. Mr. Keeshan decided when he was 17 years old that he would attempt to become the youngest person ever to reach the top of the Seven Summits. He said, “I dreamed of throwing myself at a goal, at a challenge that seemed so insurmountable in the face of the odds, that I was willing to risk death in the name of success.” At that time, Mr. Keeshan had already ascended three of the seven peaks. Mr. Keeshan began mountain-climbing in earnest the summer before his freshman year at Andover when he climbed the Grand Teton in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. By 2001, Mr. Keeshan had climbed four of the seven mountains – Denali, Aconcagua, Elbrus, and Kilimanjaro. The following summer, Mr. Keeshan climbed Cho Oyu, which stands at 27,000 feet on the Tibet-Nepal border. After reaching roughly 22,000 feet, a storm arose. The weather forced Mr. Keeshan and his team to remain at this camp for 18 days and then turn back to the base camp. Mr. Keeshan said, “Twenty minutes after passing [our] camp [site at 22,000 feet], it flew off the mountain and fell 5,000 feet into a glacier below and at the moment we knew we had made the right decision. In the end, I learned a lesson in humility. With this lesson, I considered myself ready to give Everest a try.” Although mentally and physically prepared for Everest, Mr. Keeshan lacked the necessary financial resources. He needed $100,000 to fund his climbs of both Vinson, in Antarctica, and Mount Everest. Mr. Keeshan obtained the money through a corporate sponsorship from AT&T. In January 2004, Keeshan climbed Vinson, and in May 2004 reached the summit of Everest, which stands at 29, 035 feet. Mr. Keeshan credits his childhood and his experiences at Andover with inspiring him to accomplish his goal of climbing the Seven Summits. Mr. Keeshan said, “The truest sense of success and accomplishment in achieving a goal comes not from the bullet-point on one’s resume, but rather the deeply personal satisfaction of knowing the experiences and challenges one had to overcome along the way.” Mr. Keeshan grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut. He enjoyed his school, family, and friends yet also felt that he was too sheltered. Mr. Keeshan’s grandfather was the late Bob Keeshan, known to thousands of children as “Captain Kangaroo.” He encouraged the young Mr. Keeshan to reach toward his goals. Mr. Keeshan’s own personal philosophy, along with Andover’s “non sibi” motto, inspired him to spend three months working at a leprosy clinic near the Himalayas in Northern India. “Discovery is at the heart of exploration. While exploration is about exploring frontiers and pushing new boundaries, discovery is about integrating oneself within other cultures and constantly questioning one’s typical comfort zones. This concept is at the heart of my very own philosophy of exploration. I try to set goals that push my limits and open my eyes to a bigger picture,” said Mr. Keeshan. He concluded, “Dreams are what propel us in life from one great adventure to the next. It is the art and finesse that goes into making those dreams a reality, which stands at the heart of the experiences we gather along the way. With this understanding, anything in life becomes possible.”