Johnny Collinson set out a year ago to conquer the highest points on each continent, but along the way the 17-year-old discovered the peaks were not nearly as important as the cultures he encountered and the people who helped him get to the top.
Collinson, who lives at Snowbird in Little Cottonwood Canyon, became the youngest climber to summit the top of each continent last week after stepping on the top of Antarctica's 16,067-foot Vinson Massif.
"Physically, none of them were that demanding," said the teenager. "I learned so much about the cultures of the different places I went. It was a great education and was really eye opening to see all those places in the world and to take a look at how people use their environment and look at how we treat our environment."
Collinson arrived in Salt Lake City late Tuesday morning and he heads to Washington state to compete in a ski competition Thursday.
Jim and Deb Collinson, who largely funded the trip around the world, haven't seen much of their only son in the past year, but what they have seen has pleased them.
"He was being a typical teenager before the idea to try and make the Seven Summits came along. You know, not wanting to go on family vacations and not really focused on anything," said Jim Collinson. "He sure has changed. He became a man in the last year."
Realizing they weren't going to be able to tag along with their son, the Collinsons ensured he was in good hands.
Collinson made the five middle summits, including Everest, with Damian Benegas and the first and last with his Damian's twin brother Willie.
The brothers, recognized as among the world's best mountaineers, run Patagonian Brothers Expeditions. The twins have worked at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort and became friends with Jim Collinson, who works in the snow safety department.
"I couldn't have done it without them," Johnny Collinson said. "They are great guys. They are uncle Willie and uncle Damian."
Collinson said none of the summits was more difficult than the others, but that logistically Vinson Massiff was the hardest to cross off the list.
His favorite summit was Denali in Alaska, but not because of the climb.
"There was a lot of snow and I liked it a lot because we were skiing," he said. "It was awesome."
Somehow, Collinson found time with his worldly schedule to take his ACT test and work on keeping up with his friends at Brighton High School. He plans on graduating with them later this spring and expects to enroll at the University of Utah.
No matter where he goes, Collinson said he is glad his family helped him make the last-minute decision to make an attempt at the Seven Summits a reality.
"This was the right time for it to happen. If we waited until I started college it could have affected how did it," he said. "I'm really glad we put so much effort into doing it this year. I am a little disappointed about having finished the goal, but I can really move forward with what I have learned this past year and integrate it into my future and into my life."
Johnny and his summits
Johnny Collinson, 17, reached the highest point in Antarctica last week to become the youngest climber to reach the top of each of the seven continents. Here's his list with summit dates:
January 18 , 2010 » Vinso Massif (16,067 feet), Antarctica
August 20, 2009 » Carstenz Pyramid (16,023 feet), Oceania
July 21, 2009 » Kilimanjaro (19,340 feet), Africa
July 8, 2009 » Elbrus (18,510 feet)), Eurasia
June 26, 2009 » Denali (20,320 feet), North America
May 19, 2009 » Mount Everest (29,030 feet), Asia
January 16, 2009 » Aconcagua (22,841 feet), South America
Two Seven Summits Lists
Utahn Johnny Collinson's record as the youngest climber to reach the top of the Seven Summits will have an asterisk next to his name in the record books.
There is debate about one of the highest peaks on the Seven Summits list. Some consider Mount Kosciuszko (7,310 feet) in Australia as the real location, but others say the Carstenz Pyramid (16,023 feet) in New Guinea is the true high point of the area known as Oceania, recognized as a continent encompassing Australia and nearby Pacific islands.
Dick Bass, the founder and owner of Snowbird, was the first to conquer the Seven Summits and he climbed Kosciuszko. Johnny Collinson is the youngest to do the Seven Summits list including Carstenz Pyramid, while Johnny Strange of Malibu, Calif., completed the Seven Summits list including Kosciuszko at an earlier age.