• Image about Johnny Strange

Tejas calls him a “quick learner” and says that from the get-go, the key to Strange’s climbing success was his “very can-do attitude. I think, a lot of times, people get shut down enough that they almost expect failure. In his case, he expected success right from the very beginning.”

Much of that early drive can probably be credited to Strange’s parents -- not because they pushed him but because they have always pushed themselves. Now divorced, both are hard-core climbers and adventure racers who have bagged the seven summits.

Clearly, the desire to go up, up, up is in Strange’s DNA. “From the age of two, I guess, he was climbing onto things. [At one point,] he had three sets of stitches in eight days,” says his mom, Dianette Wells. “I didn’t have an ordinary boy. I had a mom [at the playground] once say, ‘Thank God he’s not my kid.’ I just smiled.”

Taking Strange to Antarctica wasn’t his dad’s original intent. Brian Strange had been planning the trip to summit Vinson Massif himself during the December holidays. It was the younger Strange who then suggested they make it a father-son bonding adventure.

“A lot of people just said I couldn’t do it,” says the teenager. “Kind of being the underdog really motivated me to want to prove everybody wrong.”

“I honestly didn’t think he’d be able to do it. It took some talking to get [the climbing company] to let him come at 12,” says the elder Strange. His son, he adds, was insistent that he could take on Vinson. “He was always certain in his own mind that he could do it.

“So, next thing we know, he did. He was able to summit and really enjoyed it.” [The minimum climbing age has since been changed to 16.]

IT WOULD BE easy to dismiss Strange as a Malibu rich kid with the resources to do, well, pretty much whatever he wants. Search his name out on climbing message boards and you’ll get a hearty eyeful of bah and feh about him. But before you go there, don’t. No matter how much money you (or your parents) have, you don’t just wake up one day and say, “Hmmm, I think I’ll go stroll up Everest.”