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Original Issue

Out There Britton Keeshan, 22, is a peak away from becoming the youngest climber to conquer the Seven Summits

Unlike those of so many of his college-student contemporaries,
Britton Keeshan's plans for the spring do not involve sucking
beer from a bottle on a Florida beach. Instead, the Middlebury
College senior plans to be sucking oxygen from a canister atop
the highest peak in the world. Keeshan, 22, has only to conquer
29,035-foot Mount Everest this May to become the youngest climber
to successfully gain the Seven Summits, the highest mountains on
each continent. (The current youngest is Atsushi Yamada of Japan,
who was 23 years and nine days when he completed the feat in
2002.) "I really am like every other college kid," says Keeshan,
who climbed his first mountain, Wyoming's 13,772-foot Grand
Teton, while on a backpacking trip when he was 14. "I like to go
out with my friends. I'm not out there going, 'Well? What are you
doing with your life?'"

Britton is the grandson of the late Bob Keeshan, better known as
Captain Kangaroo, who died on Jan. 23 at age 76. That same day
Britton returned home to Greenwich, Conn., from Antarctica, where
he had just completed the sixth leg of his quest by climbing the
16,860-foot Vinson Massif. "For all the encouragement my
grandfather gave me, the subtle hints were dropped every once in
a while that I should give mountaineering up," he says with a
smile. "He was a big proponent of kids' wondering what was out in
the world, but I think I pushed his limits with this."

The Captain was proud, however, that his grandson spends almost
as much time helping people as he does climbing mountains. In the
fall of 2000 Britton spent three months volunteering as an aid at
a leprosy clinic in Varanasi, India. On Jan. 31 he left for
Ethiopia, where he will volunteer through February in an Addis
Ababa hospital founded by Mother Teresa. "I have an extreme
interest in medicine," he says. At Middlebury, Keeshan, who hopes
to become a doctor, is pursuing a double major in religion and
molecular biology and biochemistry. (It will take him an extra
year to reach that academic summit; he plans to graduate in the
spring of 2005.) In the meantime, he's scheduled to take his
boards for medical school in August. "I wanted to take them in
April, but there's no testing center in the Himalayas," he says.
"I'll probably be the only person in the history of Everest to
haul his MCAT book up to base camp." --Mark Beech

COLOR PHOTO: COURTESY OF BRITTON KEESHAN PACKIN' UP Keeshan will be toting his homework when he takes onEverest this May.