wondering what parents would not only allow their 16 year olds to attempt but actually enable their children to do seriously dangerous and ridiculously expensive pursuits.

Probably parents that have raised their kids well, know they have the maturity level of someone much older (we would have no qualms about a 21-year-old doing this), and probably families for whom this kind of expense is not such a big deal (and don't forget all the sponsors Jessica and others have).

If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracle of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.
- Lyndon Johnson, on signing the Wilderness Act into law (1964)