Reaching the top of the class perhaps is the recognition that many students want to achieve. But there’s more to strive for than always getting academic accomplishments, such as staying happy and healthy. There are a lot of ways to attain that, but the most fun is playing outside and getting into sports.
We invited a sports enthusiast for this month’s When I Grow Up, and his pursuit always takes him to new heights. Jon Otto is an American mountaineer who has reached a lot of peaks, including Mt. Muztagh Ata, the second highest of the mountains on the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. He is also an educator, and the current director of LeadClimb Mountaineering and Resource Center, an organization providing mountaineering courses for people of all abilities and ages. Daystar Academy students were excited to know what inspired Otto to stay on top of his game!
Jonathan, 11 (China): How did you start climbing?
Otto: I started rock climbing in summer camp when I was 14 years old. I had no idea about climbing, but after the first time rappelling down a rope I was hooked. Then when I was 17, I convinced my mother to send me to a mountaineering camp in the Wind River mountain range of Wyoming, US. I learned many mountaineering skills and climbed six peaks within a month.
Tiffany, 12 (China): What is the most important gear for rock climbing?
Otto: Hmmm, this is hard to say. It depends on what type of rock climbing you do – bouldering, sport climbing, traditional climbing, or big wall. The common gear to all of these is rock shoes, which are form-fitting to your foot and have special sticky rubber soles. But maybe the most important gear is your brain: having a clear state of mind is always the best.
Dante, 12 (Canada): How did you start your climbing school in China?
Otto: I was doing a lot of personal climbing in China, and during the years saw many accidents which could have been easily avoided if the victims had more basic knowledge and skills about the mountains. It moved me to do something to help the outdoor community within China. This impetus may also have to do with the fact that most of my family members are educators, so it runs in the blood. I wanted my climbing to be more than for me, to be for a greater good, so to speak.
Skye, 12 (Canada): What’s the best place in the world to climb?
Otto: That’s the million dollar question! And that’s the wonderful thing about climbing: it’s very personal. Everyone thinks their place is the best… and it is. Just like everyone has their favorite dessert and thinks it’s the best, everyone has their favorite climbing place. It’s completely subjective.
Lukas, 14 (China): Have you ever considered going to Mt. Everest?
Otto: Honestly, there’s not much that attracts me to Mt. Everest. For one, it’s too commercial. The sherpas do most of the work for you and you “simply” have to walk in a line following a long rope. There’s not much real climbing. Also, it’s not a very aesthetic mountain. However, from a career perspective, it could be good to climb. In many ways it’s a pity that Everest is the tallest mountain in the world.
Danny, 12 (China): Where’s your next trip?
Otto: I love to climb smaller, technical (steep) peaks 5,000 to 6,000 meters high. Most of these peaks are ones that no one has heard of before. So my next trip will probably be to a peak like this in Sichuan Province. I also would love to climb the second highest mountain in the world. Do you know which one this is? Hint: on the border between Pakistan and China. I am planning on doing this peak within the next three years. It’s tall, technically difficult, and a beautifully stunning pyramid-shaped mountain.
Jian, 12 (US): What do you do in your free time?
Otto: I spend time with my 11-year-old daughter. Sometimes we go outdoors, but overall she’s not into climbing. She loves to camp and sleep in a tent. We’ll go to a beautiful valley and she’ll ride horses all day to a camping spot. She also loves to ski, so we do that together.
Joshua, 12 (UK): What’s your favorite sport?
Otto: Well, climbing of course. But I want to do kitesurfing. I’ve never tried but it’s the one sport that’s not related to climbing that looks really fun and challenging.
Photos: Dave’s Studio
This article appeared on p32-33 of beijingkids April 2018 issue