World traveler Nico Saporito has been to the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon rain forest, and he just completed his latest, most challenging expedition — climbing to the summit of Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro. He’s done all of this, and yet he hasn’t even finished middle school.
Nico is only 11 years old, making him one of the youngest people to ever reach the 19,000-foot summit of Kilimanjaro.
The fifth-grader from Loxahatchee, Fla., got the idea for climbing Kilimanjaro from watching a special on the Discovery Channel three years ago, in which two 12-year-olds hiked to the mountain’s peak.
“Nico got a bit obsessed after watching that,” his father, Robert Saporito, told AOL News. “But he was only 8 at the time, and the rule is, you have to be 10 years old to climb Kilimanjaro.”
This past December, with a school break on the horizon, the dream of father and son hiking to the summit seemed it could become a reality. Using frequent flier miles, Saporito planned the duo’s two-week trip to Africa, which would involve a hike to the top of Kilimanjaro. Then he started getting Nico physically prepared for the climb.
“For us, living in Florida at sea level, it’s a big jump to go from sea level to 19,000 feet,” Saporito said. “I’m a control freak, so I did a lot of research to see what would help us prepare in advance.”
Nico and and his dad’s preparation for the adventure involved running three to four miles daily, and the use of an altitude simulator device that lowers the body’s oxygen to levels found at high altitudes.
Since they were going to be hiking close to Kilimanjaro’s rainy season, they chose to climb the Rongai route, a 46-mile trail to the summit that is located on the driest side of the mountain. On the four and a half hour car ride to the base of the route, Nico started getting very sick, and his father was afraid the climb might be over before it started.
“It was a really bumpy ride and Nico was very nauseous,s and I thought, Oh no, this is not an auspicious way to start,” says Robert. “But he had some soup, and then just seeing all the wildlife — the baboons and monkeys and chameleons — lifted his spirits. By the time we got to base camp, he was feeling really good.”
Starting on March 12, the Saporitos hiked to the summit over seven days, camping each night at a predetermined site based on altitude levels. They reached the summit on March 16. For both father and son, it was an unforgettable journey.”With the different environmental zones on the mountain, we hiked through a tropical rain forest, an alpine desert and an arctic area at the top,” Saporito said. “Nico is still raving about the whole experience.”
Next up for the adventuresome duo? Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef in Australia this July.
“His mother doesn’t even want to know about that,” Saporito said with a laugh.