Conquering altitudes,celebrating achievements

Fredrick, a professional mountaineer, celebrated his 50th expedition to The Himalayas by taking along with him a nine-year-old and a trans woman and setting records.
The eight-member crew from Tamil Nadu.
The eight-member crew from Tamil Nadu.

CHENNAI: Trudging through knee-deep snow one moment, only to be pelted by icy rain the next, the determined eight-member crew from Tamil Nadu walked through the terrains of The Himalayas. The greatest challenge they faced was the ever-changing climate itself. The ground beneath their feet shifted unpredictably, transforming from solid rock to treacherous mud with each passing day.

This team was formed by their shared love for adventure and a mutual determination to challenge their limits, led by Fredrick, a professional mountaineer. On May 16, adding to his list of achievements, Fredrick celebrated his 50th expedition to The Himalayas. This time he took nine-year-old Yazhini and the sub-inspector of the Tamil Nadu police, Prithika Yashini, to the base camp. Yazhini became the youngest person from Tamil Nadu to reach the Base Camp and Prithika became the first trans woman in India to reach 5,364 metres of altitude at Everest Base Camp.

Experiences of expedition

For the past 34 years, Fredrick has been leading mountaineering expeditions in collaboration with his organisation The Mountaineering and Adventure Sports Society, sponsored by Sigaram Charitable Trust. They have taken almost 2,700 students to The Himalayas. “For my 50th expedition, I wanted to do something different and hopefully help people set more records and eventually it happened. I have been trying to conduct an expedition with Prithika since 2020.

Since she was working in the police department, getting leave was a problem. Finally, the time came this year and we got NOC from the department and then ventured on this journey,” shares Fredrick. “I have always felt that people don’t encourage trans women to do activities like this. Already the community faces a lot of discrimination. I wanted to bring members of the community to the forefront so that they become an inspiration for others,” he adds.

Prithika has already set records by becoming the first trans woman sub-inspector in Tamil Nadu. Unlocking a new record, she says, “This was my dream for so long. We have been trying to go to Kilimanjaro since 2020 but that didn’t happen. I have now completed eight years in the police service. There are a lot of struggles I have faced to sustain there. Like that, the journey to the Himalayas wasn’t an easy one. This is indeed a milestone for me.”

For Yazhini, it was a fun experiment to go trekking without the assistance of her parents. Fredrick says, “I had taken Yazhini’s mother Divya for trekking when she was studying in college in 2011. We kept in touch and she used to ask me if there are any opportunities to take her daughter for trekking. I was a bit hesitant at first because taking a child on this journey can be difficult, especially when the child’s parent is not present with us. But Yazhini was very cooperative and she had a positive attitude throughout, which made things easy for everyone.”

Yazhini shares that the journey felt like a jolly trip to the mountains. She adds, “Earlier I had gone walking, swimming, and done other sports but not mountaineering. So this trip was really special. It was really exciting to see snowfall in real life. I did miss my parents but the team supported me and it was really nice to go with them.”

IT professional Praveen Chandran, Swamy from Palani, Krishnamurthy from Karnataka, and 20-year-olds Prakalyas and Ananya were the other members of the crew. It was a maiden experience for all of them. The trek started from Lukla to Phakding and Namche Bazaar. After one day of acclimatisation, the journey continued to Tengboche and Dingboche, then Lobuche and Everest Base Camp. The team gathered at Coimbatore and travelled from Bengaluru to Kathmandu for their trip.

Speaking about the challenges they faced during the trip, Fredrick says, “The unpredictable weather was the greatest difficulty. We didn’t have any major issues other than the sudden temperature changes. On the first day, the climate was okay. On the second day, it was raining and then we experienced snowfall. Walking in cold winds is tough. We tend to shiver a lot but we adjusted by wearing layers of jackets.” Adding to that, Prithika says, “It is cloudy and misty throughout the way which makes it difficult for us to see properly. When we get to high altitudes, there are a lot of changes in the body. Having a cold and a blocked nose for two days in normal weather is difficult. Imagine all of us travelling with a cold for almost eight days of the trek.”

The joy of reaching their destination doubled when they all held the tricolour. “Even though we had a lot of difficulties, we felt it was all worth it when we held the Indian Flag atop the mountains,” comments Prithika. “According to me, success happens when a lot of people get inspired by what I do. Almost eight trans women have joined the police services after I started working. I hope that happens in this field also. I hope to go on more adventures and create records,” she concludes.

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