When 9-yr-old Kaamya Karthikeyan reached the summit of the 20,187 ft. Stok Kangri peak, the first thing she asked was, “Is it over?” Her parents, who were accompanying her, said yes. With that, she became the world’s youngest person to climb the peak.
Kaamya completed the trek at 9.45 am on Tuesday, August 8, 2017, just two days before she turned 10. Vaassangyaan Chaudhary holds the previous record. He was 11 when he climbed the peak in June last year. Just two months ago, Kaamya became the youngest girl from Andhra Pradesh to do the Everest Base Camp trek.
Kaamya’s father S Karthikeyan is a commander in the Indian Navy and a mountaineer himself. “Dadu used to climb a lot right from the time I was a baby. Then he started taking me on treks too. I think I like it because I get to make so many friends. I also like drinking the water from mountain streams,” says Kaamya.
Reaching the Stok Kangri peak, located in Kashmir, involves climbing 30 km over a course of three days. But the catch is that the altitude gain over those three days is a strenuous 2,750 metres. On the last day, the team started at 10 in the night and reached the summit at 9.45 am the next day. “We were lucky to have a clear, full-moon night. But I wasn’t expecting snow this time of the year on the route. It got a little difficult when we were coming down, because the slope is a steep 60 degrees and it was slippery and slushy because of the melted snow”, said her father.
The trekkers had to wear special equipment and were harnessed to each other to avoid slipping. As they neared the peak, trekkers who were coming down cheered the little mountaineer on. “One of them even gave me chocolates. That motivated me and then I ate it on the summit”, she explained to me. The trek back down was another 7 hours, which made the total climb a gruelling 19 hours. According to her parents, Kaamya wasn’t too tired and in fact, started playing Sudoku right after they returned.
Kaamya is no stranger to the outdoors. She is an intermediate level skier, and has also run mini-marathons. Over the last year, she has completed several high-altitude treks like Chandrashila and Roopkund as well. Her family would like to take her to Mt. Kilimanjaro next, provided they manage the finances.
Kaamya’s goal right now, though, is to become a forest officer. Why? “I guess it’s because I can be with nature.”