Lucy Westlake

September 2022 View more

Westlake on the summit of Mount Everest. One of her passions is raising awareness for safe drinking water around the world. Inset: Presenter Billie Jean King with the Youth Leadership Award honorees, including Westlake (far right), during the ESPYS  in July.

Naperville’s Lucy Westlake climbed her first mountain when she was 7. (It was Black Mountain, Kentucky, on a family trip.) From there, it was, well, onward and upward. Next came highpointing—setting a record at age 12 as the youngest female to reach the highest elevation in each of the Lower 48 states. At 17, she set another record as the youngest female to highpoint all 50 states, summiting Alaska’s Denali in June 2021. Less than a year later, in May, she became the youngest female to reach the top of Mount Everest, the highest peak on the planet. She’s now 18 and already has climbed the tallest mountains on five of the seven continents. Her next goal is to set the world record as the youngest woman to achieve the Explorers Grand Slam—reaching the highest points on all seven continents, plus skiing to the North and South Poles. 

In July Westlake was one of five Youth Leadership Award honorees at the 2022 ESPYS. This fall she’s a freshman at the University of Southern California and a member of the cross-country team. 

Q: How did you train to climb to the top of the world? 
A: Since we don’t have any mountains around here, I just use my running. I ran cross-country and track with Naperville North High School—its team is absolutely amazing, one of the best girls’ programs in the nation. That prepared me really well. I also do some weightlifting on my own, and that’s really how I prepare physically. Mentally, I rely on my previous climbs. A lot of the climbs I’ve done [carry over]—like Denali is very similar to Everest, gear-wise—but there are some different things for sure. Like on Everest, there’s the Khumbu Icefall—more vertical ice than I’d ever climbed before.

But that mental side, that’s my strongest part. I’m very mentally tough. Just practicing going up different mountains in the past, I know what it takes. I always go in knowing, in some way, I’m going to be pushed to my limits, every time. So just knowing that—and not only accepting it but almost looking forward to it: This is why I’m doing it, this is what I want to do. That’s how you mentally prepare.  I love to be at my limit just to see what my body can do, to see how far I can go.

Q: What do you hope people learn from your climb?
A: One thing I’ve really noticed in my years of climbing–there’s not a lot of young people or women in the mountains, which is a shame because the mountains should really be for everyone who wants to be there. Just like anything, everyone should be able to follow their dreams and their passions without having that extra hurdle of having to convince everyone around them—as well as themselves—that they can do it. I hope seeing me in the mountains, other women will be like, ‘Well, if she can do it, I can do it.’ Or other young people. That’s what I hope to inspire with my Everest climb.

Q: What advice do you have for kids who want to do what you do?
A: When you find that passion, when you find that dream, don’t let anyone stand in your way—including yourself. Sometimes it can seem really daunting, really scary, or like you’re dreaming too big, too much. But just take it in small bits and focus on one goal at a time. Don’t be afraid to put yourself in situations you’re uncomfortable in. Good things will happen when you say yes, when you take those challenges.

Photos courtesy of Lucy Westlake and Kelly Backus/ESPN Images