Ain’t no mountain high enough for this young mountaineer7 min readReading Time: 5 minutes
At the age of 13, Kaamya Karthikeyan already has three world records to her credit. She is the youngest girl to summit a peak above 6,000 meters (Mt. Stok Kangri); the youngest girl to summit Mount Aconcagua; and the youngest girl in the world to ski-down from the summit of Mt. Elbrus. In 2017, Kaamya trekked to the Everest basecamp becoming the second youngest girl in the world to accomplish this journey! She has now embarked upon a new mission, the Explorer’s Grand Slam, a mission to climb the highest peaks in all seven continents, and ski to the North and South Poles. If she completes the mission, she will be the youngest person to achieve this feat.
Apart from being a mountaineer, Kaamya is also a Bharatnatyam dancer, pianist, guitarist, and singer.
She has recently been awarded the Prime Minister’s Rasthriya Bal Puraskar, India’s highest civilian honour bestowed upon exceptional individuals under the age of eighteen.
Owliver met with this trailblazer whose list of achievements are taller than the mountains she has climbed!
It all started when I was three. My father, an officer in the Indian Navy, was posted in Lonavala at that time. There was not much to do on the weekends so we started trekking. My father used to go for expeditions with the forces and I was intrigued by what kept pulling him back to the mountains. To quench this curiosity, my mother took me to my first Himalayan trek to Chandrashila peak in Uttarakhand when I was seven years old. And then, it began.
In 2017, I climbed Mt. Stok Kangri, that got me my first World Record for being the youngest girl to summit a peak higher than 20,000 feet. It was a gruelling 19-hour summit climb but after I was done, I still had the energy to play sudoku in my tent. That’s when we realised that I had the stamina for more challenging climbs! And this gave birth to Mission SAHAS.
Mission SAHAS is my attempt to complete the ‘Explorer Grand Slam’ by climbing the highest peaks in all 7 continents and skiing to the North and South Poles. This is the ultimate mountaineering challenge. So far, out of these, I have climbed the highest peaks of Africa, Australia, Europe, and South America. I am currently preparing for my next climb, which is Mount Denali, the highest peak in North America.
Kaamya is preparing to complete this mission by 2022 to become the youngest person to finish this monumental journey at the age of fourteen.
Her biggest achievement?
Climbing every single mountain has been an achievement. But I think that one of my more prominent achievements is that through my mission, I have been able to reach out to young girls across India encouraging them to step outdoors and lead adventurous lives.
“I collect souvenirs from every mountain that I’ve ever visited. And after each trip, we have that keepsake and a framed picture from the summit”
Challenges along the way…
Physically, each mountain has a different challenge. For the Everest basecamp climb, we had to walk continuously for fourteen days. Mt. Stok Kangri has a 19-hour summit climb which was also very tough. For Mt. Kilimanjaro, we had to do a 4,000 meter height gain in just four days. Mt. Elbrus is in the Northern Hemisphere and hence, very cold. In Australia, Mt. Kosciuszko has really strong winds. Mt. Aconcagua is way down in the Southern Hemisphere. So, the air is very thin. Also, there are no mountains as tall as Mt. Aconcagua around it, making the wind very powerful! At Aconcagua, I also needed a special permit from the family court in Argentina to attempt the climb owing to my age.
Her favourite journey…
Every journey has been beautiful. In my Himalayan treks, Roopkund, which I did in 2016, is my favourite! My dad has been my inspiration to take up mountaineering, and Roopkund was the first Himalayan trek that I did with him.
What do mountains mean to her?
A lot of people say that when they go summit a mountain that they have conquered the mountain and feel strong and powerful. But I don’t think we can ever conquer a mountain just by climbing; this powerful force just allows us an audience of the summit. Each expedition has made me more humble.
How does she unwind?
I love reading books. I am a big bookworm! I love watching TV, and playing with my friends. Because of my involvement in adventure, I have been able to make time for everything I really like. I have also been learning Bharatnatyam for the last seven years. I have completed my Grade 5 in piano from Trinity College, and Grade 2 in guitar. I am also learning classical music.\
What keeps her going? Who inspires her?
My father has been my inspiration, my coach and my role model for all these years. Seeing him go on expeditions to the Himalayas is what kindled the curiosity to go explore the mountains in me. My mother has been my trekking partner and my motivation. From the beginning she has taken me to almost all of my expeditions till date. Only recently, my father has started taking me to some of the harder expeditions. So, my parents are a source of both inspiration and motivation for me to keep going.
Kaamya in ten years…..
I hope that within the next year or so I am able to finish the Explorers Grand Slam!
My father is in the Navy and as such, I have always been attracted to the uniform and the idea of serving my country. But I also feel a strong connect with nature and want it to be a part of my profession. So, when I grow up, I want to be in the Indian Forest Services so I can be close to nature and serve our country.
And here’s her message for our readers…
(Trailblazers is a bi-monthly column where we feature inspiring youngsters who are doing great things, in their own way)
Would you like to nominate someone you know to be featured in this column? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with their name, and what makes them a Trailblazer.
Images: Kaamya Karthikeyan