At age nine, this girl from Visakhapatnam has created a record by climbing the high ranges of the Himalayas. Kaamya Karthikeyan scaled Mount Stok Kangri ( 20,187 ft) on August 4 becoming the youngest in the world to scale the peak that stands at a mammoth 20,000 feet above sea level. Her success came after a gruelling summit climb of almost 12 hours followed by a descent of seven hours.
As she completed the arduous trek with her parents, her first reactions were: “It’s been a long day, yeah very long.” Twelve hours of walking through the night and early morning hours, she reached the summit at 9.45 in the morning. “There were about 40-50 other climbers who attempted summit on the same day, out of which only 15 including the four of us completed the summit,” she adds.
This Naval officer’s daughter had made it to the Mt Everest base camp two months ago, but Kaamya says this experience to Mt. Stok Kangri was very different compared to her previous treks.
“Firstly, as we land in Leh directly we are already at 3,500 mtrs above sea level, which is very high altitude. So we had to do a lot of acclimatization by travelling across Khardung La Pass (world’s highest motorable pass) twice. We then travelled across Chang La pass (world’s second highest motorable pass) and even stayed overnight at Pangong Lake which is about 4,300 mtrs. Secondly, unlike other Himalayan treks, the scene in Leh is barren and can get on to you if you don’t adapt,” says Kaamya’s father S. Karthikeyan, a naval officer.
Luckily, Kaamya enjoyed the terrain and especially the beauty of miniature, but brightly coloured flowers which are scarcely seen.
However, the real challenge was the summit climb. This now has to be done directly from the base camp to the Summit and back as camping at the intermediary advance base camp was prohibited a few years ago.
“So now it’s a direct climb of about 1,100 mtrs lasting an average of 14-17 hours. A huge altitude gain, combined with an extremely long day at work has made the success on Stok’s summit extremely challenging,” her father adds. The celebration of the present trek is still pending as Kaamya is busy covering up the missed lessons and studying for the exams that started this week. Now after this long tough trek, the little mountaineer has set her eyes on higher goals.
“It might be Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Elbrus next! But I am sure to undertake ski training in January and participate in the Winter National Games,” says the student of class five of Navy Children’s School, Visakhapatnam. Next summers, she plans to undergo a mountaineering course to gain institutionalised training to prepare her for higher and tougher climbs. Speaking about her earlier Everest Base Camp (EBC) trek, she says, “The entire trek lasted for 14 days, during which we walked through dense forests, grassy plains, rocky terrain, snow and icy glaciers. The amazing views and backdrops that I witnessed compensated more than enough for the efforts put-in during the training.”
Also an accomplished swimmer, marathon runner, Bharatnatyam dancer and Carnatic classical singer, Kaamya’s trekking experiences started on a baby sling with her mother who would take her on treks.
At the age of three, she first started taking baby steps trekking through the Sahyadris holding her father’s hands during his posting in Lonavla. Her first Himalayan trek was to Chandrashila peak at 12,000 feet. Since then, there has been no looking back. This year, she stood first in the basic and intermediate snow skiing courses.
“The progress to this level has been long and gradual and not easy for sure. I’m fortunate that I was born into adventure, with my father, an accomplished mountaineer, skydiver, cyclist and runner, as my biggest inspiration. I treaded my baby steps in the wilderness at an early age of less than three, when I took to trekking in the Sahyadris with my parents. The beauty of the Sahyadris instilled the love for nature so deep in me that I began treasuring the patterns of butterflies and leaves more than expensive toys and clothes. I was hooked forever to Mother Nature,” says Kaamya, who has been giving presentations on her trekking experiences in some city schools and is looking forward to reach out to more children to motivate them.
“For me, the best part was that Kaamya never showed any signs of tiredness even during the tough summit climb and repeatedly kept asking only one question ‘Am I climbing ok? Is my speed good enough to summit on time?’ That was inspirational,” recalls her father and adds that, “such treks and outdoor activities have direct benefits on children like maintaining good health and indirect benefits like the ability to put in hard work, prioritising and scheduling requirements n life and a ‘never say never’ attitude.”
Sports and adventure brings discipline, confidence and focus in life and helps one excel in every sphere. Along with her physical development, Kaamya has been able to juggle easily between winning Spell Bee and Olympiad competitions and learning to play the piano, western and Carnatic music.
courtesy The Hindu