The record for the youngest person to climb Kilimanjaro has been held by several children from 2008 to 2018, including Coaltan Tanner, Montannah Kenney, Roxy Getter, Olivia Maiden, Zain Ackrim, Sam Irving, and Keats Boyd until recently when Ognjen Živković smashed this incredible record at a tender age of 5 years.
On Sunday, August 6, 2023, a day that Ognjen, Zoran, Musa, and Wilson will forever cherish, they achieved an extraordinary feat. What’s the reason for this unforgettable day? On that very day, they successfully reached the summit of Africa’s highest peak, the renowned Kilimanjaro.
While this might not initially sound exceptionally remarkable, considering that numerous hikers ascend the mountain daily, this instance stands out for a remarkable reason: Ognjen, a mere five years old, was part of this accomplishment. Truly, a sensation!
By conquering the peak of Kilimanjaro, often referred to as the “Roof of Africa,” Ognjen not only realized his own dream but also established a new global record as the youngest individual ever to reach the 5,895-meter-high summit.
Naturally, this achievement wasn’t a casual endeavor. It stemmed from meticulous groundwork, including acclimatization, hikes to various European summits, and navigating through administrative procedures.
Given Ognjen’s young age, this accomplishment wasn’t a solo journey.
The Preparation Ognjen Živković, a five-year-old from Serbia, held an enduring aspiration to ascend Kilimanjaro. His aspiration was singular: to stand at the peak and stand before the iconic sign at Uhuru Peak. Impressed by his fervor, his parents lent support to his audacious desire.
With unwavering enthusiasm, daily hikes covering 20 kilometers soon became routine. To prepare themselves for the Kilimanjaro climb, they tackled mountains like Sass Pordoi (2,950 m) and Piz Boe (3,152 m) in South Tyrol. Each triumphant summit photo fueled their drive for the next adventure, solidifying the impending realization of reaching Uhuru Peak.
In each step of their journey, the resonating spirit of the renowned Swedish heavy metal band, Sabaton, accompanied them. Though not physically present, the band’s music spurred Ognjen to ascend new heights. When Sabaton learned of Ognjen’s ambition, they were struck by his bravery and undertakings, prompting them to offer full support.
The Route to Kilimanjaro The decision was made: Ognjen and his father, Zoran, would choose to climb Kilimanjaro in 2023. Seeing their determination and meticulous preparation, we eagerly joined their cause. To fulfill Ognjen’s dream, we secured special permission from the Kilimanjaro National Park authorities (KINAPA) to break the world record, an approval that was granted.
Throughout, Zoran immersed himself in our travel guides and absorbed necessary information, tips, and recommendations. Open dialogue with our guides led them to choose the Machame route—an exceptionally picturesque trail and rewarding choice.
Comprehensive preparations spanned vaccinations, visas, insurances, flight arrangements, equipment readiness, and parental consent to ensure safety.
Recognizing the pivotal challenge of Kilimanjaro’s environment, they prioritized altitude acclimatization to ward off altitude sickness. Over two weeks, they acclimatized naturally, supplementing it with artificial acclimatization up to 6,500 m and simulated conditions of 5,000 m.
Ognjen met each challenge head-on, fostering readiness for the journey ahead.
Reaching for the Summit The day arrived to embark on the long-anticipated journey—a culmination of Ognjen and Zoran’s determined efforts. Guided by Musa, one of our trusted Kilimanjaro guides, alongside porters and Wilson, the assistant guide, their adventure was set in motion. Musa recounted their journey post-descent, allowing us to recount the experience with vivid detail.
Their journey initiated at Machame Gate, their starting point, where they encountered an initial hurdle: children weren’t typically permitted on this route, necessitating further permissions. Swiftly resolved, their ascent was slightly delayed but remained unhindered.
The hike commenced, leading through the pristine natural rainforest to Machame Camp, their initial night’s stay.
Day 2 encompassed a manageable five-kilometer hike, overcoming the steeper incline to reach Shira Camp ahead of schedule. Here, rest, sustenance, tent assembly, and slumber beneath the African stars awaited.
Day 3 demanded more effort, requiring double the distance covered on the previous day. Undaunted, Ognjen embarked on this leg, potentially guided by his favorite Sabaton melody. From Shira, their path took them to the renowned Lava Tower, where a break was apt for lunch beside this natural wonder. The journey continued to Barranco Camp, nestled beside the impressive Barranco Wall.
Day 4, replete with ascents and descents, presented challenges comparable to previous days. Ognjen’s spirits remained high, while the adults navigated trickier sections. Amid breathtaking vistas of Kibo volcano and Mount Meru, they proceeded from Barranco Camp to Barafu Camp, partaking in nourishment and resting briefly.
Reaching the summit of the highest mountain in Africa
At midnight, the alarm sounded, signaling the commencement of their final ascent. In cold and wind, Ognjen radiated positivity. Enthused by Sabaton’s spirit, he tackled the stretch to Uhuru Peak. This stage, the most demanding, drew close monitoring from guides to ensure physical and mental well-being.
Hours later, the sign they aspired to see came into view:
CONGRATULATIONS! YOU ARE NOW AT UHURU PEAK TANZANIA 5895M AMSL
Cloaked in their warm jackets, their smiles illuminated by the rising sun, a photograph captured the profound moment shared by Ognjen, Zoran, and the guides.
Following hours atop the peak and a celebratory gathering, they descended to Mweka Gate. At an altitude of approximately 3,000 m, a pause allowed them to appreciate food and their extraordinary accomplishment. The elation was palpable among the entire group, encompassing not just Ognjen and Zoran but our dedicated guides.
Ognjen’s elation knew no bounds, and Zoran’s pride was immeasurable. Their five-year-old son’s achievements fostered a bright future, not just as a mountaineer, but as a guardian of Sabaton’s legacy.
Ognjen Živković—five years old, a hero, and a world record holder.
If this extraordinary tale has kindled inspiration within you, and you too aspire to climb Kilimanjaro, don’t hesitate to connect with us. We are committed to making your dream a reality.