On Sunday, May 25th, 2014, India's Malavath Poorna, became the youngest female to climb to the summit of the world's highest peak - Mount Everest. The 13-year-old girl handily surpassed the previous record holder - Nepal's Nima Chemji Sherpa, who accomplished same feat in 2012, at the age of 16.
While that in itself is impressive, what is even more so is the journey that culminated in this amazing achievement. Unlike many young climbers who come from privileged families, Malavath hails from a poor farming family. Though her small village of Pakala lies just 200 km north of the bustling city of Hyderabad, it is hard to access, given that there are no permanent roads leading to it.
It is therefore not surprising to hear that most Pakala girls never see the inside of a school. Malavath is one of the fortunate ones that managed to buck the trend thanks to Swaeroes, a welfare organization whose mission is to help India's underprivileged reach their full potential. They helped enroll the young girl in a nearby boarding school. Then about nine months ago, Swaeroes provided her with the opportunity to achieve this impossible dream by offering mountaineering training. Not one to pass up an exciting adventure, the athletic girl signed up, along with 150 other underprivileged youngsters. Almost immediately, Malavath impressed the instructor Parmesh Kumar, with her determination and grit.
It was therefore not surprising to hear that she was one of the twenty selected for the professional training session at the Darjeeling Himalayan Mountaineering Institute from October 26th to November 16th, 2013. At the end of the two-week period, only two youngsters were selected for the dangerous climb - Malavath was one of them!
Then came the big day - On April 15th, 2014, Malavath and 16-year-old S. Anand Kumar along with their guide Shekhar Babu and a team of sherpas began the treacherous 8,848-meter (29,029-foot) trek. While most climbers attempt the peak from the slightly easier Nepalese side, this team had to go via the harder Tibetan side. That's because the government of Nepal does not allow anyone younger than 16, to scale the route.
It was not easy. In fact, Malavath was sent back to base camp after she experienced altitude sickness when she got to the advanced base camp set up at an altitude of 6,400 meters. However the determined youngster returned three days later, and insisted on continuing. It took 52 days, but on May 25th, 2014, Malavath, who made it to the summit a few minutes ahead of 16-year-old Anand, proudly hoisted her country's flag at the top of the world. The young girl hopes that her achievements will inspire underprivileged people and girls all over the world, to try achieve their dreams.
Resources: dailymail.co.uk, discovery.com, BBC.co.uk, omanoobserver.com