If you thought a 4-foot-7 middle schooler was no match for a mountain, Peyton DeGroote has already proven you wrong.
When 12-year-old Peyton needed a little oopmh in her summer routine, she turned her sights to the summit of Mount St. Helens.
“I wanted to climb the mountain, because I thought it would be really fun,” said the Monticello middle schooler on Saturday. “I wanted to prove to people that even though I’m really small I could do things that are amazing.”
Starting at Climber’s Bivouac on June 23, Peyton made it up the mountain via the summer route with her stepdad Jason Jellum, first to the false summit and then across the ridge to the real summit.
To make it up the mountain, Peyton said she gave herself many pep talks. The most difficult portion of the mountain, she said, was near the top, where the terrain is covered in pumice and ash.
“It is very hard, but you can definitely make it up to the top if you believe in yourself,” she said. “There were many times that I believed that I couldn’t make it to the top, and then I was thinking of all the things I’ve done before.”
That list already includes June lake, Beacon Rock, Silver Falls and many more.
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Peyton’s mom, Nicole Jellum, said she wasn’t worried about Peyton’s safety, because she was with her stepdad Jason, an experienced hiker. She did worry Peyton would be disappointed if she didn’t summit. But Peyton did, and Jellum joked that her daughter now has about 50 more hikes planned.
“It felt like I was at the top of the world,” Peyton said of the summit.
She said her next goal is to hike Lava Canyon, also near St. Helens, bringing her one step closer to a career as a geologist. The avid reader and lover of nature and wildlife said she also wants to be a marine biologist.
Jellum hopes other families will follow in Peyton and her stepdad’s footsteps.
“We’re telling this story because we’re hoping that other parents do this with their children,” she said. “Because it gives them a different kind of confidence than sports or others activities. … It’s a time that you can reflect on who you are when you’re out in the middle of nowhere.”
Peyton also hopes her climb inspires more kids to get outside and explore, a sense of adventure both agreed seems to be disappearing.
“I think that a lot of kids don’t go outside anymore, because they have electronics in their hands,” Peyton said. “They think I have this new game (for example). It’s better when you go outside. You can catch bugs, you can play on the swing set. It’s limitless.”