On February 22, two Beijing elementary school students plus adult team members, climbed to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa. Nine-year-old Zhang Muyuan was the youngest person ever to ascend the mountain. Controversy raged however when it was discovered that Zhang had lied about his age.
According to New Beijing Newspaper's report on February 27, 11-year-old Zhang Muyao and his brother 9-year-old Zhang Muyuan and adult team members all reached the 5895-meter summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Zhang Muyuan is the youngest person ever to reach to the top. Zhang's accomplishment broke the previous record of a 12 year old American boy who had previously reached the summit.
Prior to this most recent accomplishment, the two Zhang brothers had broken another “youngest climbers” record when they successfully scaled Sichuan Province's Siguniang Peak with an elevation of 5025 meters. Eleven-year-old Zhang Muyao said that they had practiced their climbing skills on ice and hard snow. Their next targeted challenge is Peak Jaya, the highest peak in Oceania.
The Tanzanian Department of Mountain Climbing Administration sets guidelines and rules to protect the safety of climbers attempting to ascend Mt. Kilimanjaro. The guidelines forbid children under 10 years old from attempting the ascent. This “minimum climber's age” guideline is intended to protect the lives of children. Nine-year-old Zhang will not turn 10 years old until April 2007. Zhang had been untruthful about his age when registering for the climb.
Zhang told reporters that after successfully reaching the peak he had slipped and almost fell to his death. Luckily for him, older team members were there and rescued him. Zhang's untruthfulness was the source of much criticism from the people of mainland China as it had ultimately put his life in danger. Lin Weiping, a teacher in Zhejiang Province published a letter to the Yangtse Evening Post questioning who would be ultimately responsible if Zhang had lost his life during the ascent. The letter also questioned who was ultimately responsible for the misinformation submitted by Zhang on his application for the climb.