While at 10 years of age, most children are busy with their school homework, Kamya Karthikeyan from Visakhapatnam is setting a record of being the youngest mountaineer. She is the second youngest girl in the world to climb the Everest Base Camp at 17598 feet.
With her recent climb to Mount Elbrus on June 14 this year, Europe’s highest mountain at 18, 510 feet and the 10th most important peak in the world, Kamya has so far completed eight summits.
On this Russian mountain, Kamya was accompanied by her mother Lavanya and Father S. Karthikeyan.
On asking Kamya why does she like to climb, the mountaineering enthusiast tells us, “I am sure I will inspire many, but most importantly mountains tell us how small we are. Each time I climb, I get stronger, just like the mountain itself.”
On scaling Europe’s highest peak
Narrating their experience, her mother says, “this trek was difficult than the Stok Kangri, which Kamya climbed last year. Stok Kangri base camp itself is at 4500 meters and the peak is at 6150 meters. On the contrary, Elbrus is 5642 meters high and is spread all through the bone-chilling weather of Russia.”
The mother-daughter duo climbed 500 to 600 meters daily which is the limit a human body can sustain and acclimatise at a time. “We used the cable car to get to 3780 meters and then started the climb,” Lavanya said.
A summit is the last climb a mountaineer starts to reach the peak. From 13 to 15 of June Kamya was supposed to train for climbing techniques. However, on learning about the rough weather, a call had to be taken and the summit was advanced with minimal acclimatisation.
“When you are climbing the mountains one thing you have to keep in mind is that mountains are supreme. So we had to start the climb on 14th morning. It was -20 degrees at 1:00 am in the morning when we started to climb. Generally, the summit climbs are long and you have to finish the day’s work till 12:00 noon. After that, ice starts to melt and there is a risk of an avalanche. So we reached the west summit at 9:30 am and then climbed the east summit which is 20 meters higher. It was still -4 degrees so coming downhill was also easy,” said Lavanya.
A certified member of the ‘seven-summits’- the highest point on every continent, Kamya has braved these adventurous ventures since she was seven. She achieved her first milestone in October last year when she scaled 18,652 feet high Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa.
Like father, like daughter
Interestingly, Kamya’s father Karthik, a serving commander in Indian Navy has also been into mountaineering since 2010 and has led an 11 member Indian Navy mountaineering team to the summit of Mt. Kamet in May 2016.
Seeing her enthusiasm and will, her father designed a mission ‘Sahas’ aimed at climbing the ‘seven summits’-highest peaks in the seven continents and skiing on North and South poles.
For such treks to happen, Kamya trains with her father. “It is pretty easy to mould kids. She runs, cycles for 15 km a day, and on weekends takes long treks which require waking up at 2 am and then trekking for 6 to 7 hours. Besides she has been going on treks with Karthik from the age of three. Her spirit to climb and will to perform a trek comes from her love for nature,” says a proud Lavanya.
Kamya did her first Himalayan trek to 12000 feet high Chandrashila Peak when she was seven-years-old. In the successive years, she climbed Har-Ki-Dun, Kedarnath and Roopkund Lake, which are all well above 3500 meters in altitude.
When asked if she’s afraid of her daughter engaging in such ‘risky’ adventures, Lavanya says, “See we are cautious but not scared. Initially, she used to go with her father but seeing her enthusiasm I supported her and joined her on treks. This also affects her other activities. She understands the value of time, organizes her schedule accordingly. And of course, there are physical benefits”
Mountaineering as a sport has still not developed in India, says Lavanya. “We have some of the highest peaks in the world; Mt. Everest being the highest and the most difficult one. It is near to us than to any other country, and we still lack behind. Although the sport is booming in Western India with Maharashtra being the epicentre, it still has a long way to go,” she opines.