9 year old Kaamya Karthikeyan reached the summit of Stok Kangri, 6,153 metres (20,187 feet), at 9:45am on August 8th. In doing so she became the youngest person ever, smashing the previous record held by 11 year old Vaassangyaan Chaudhary.
Stok Kangri is the highest mountain in the Stok Range of the Himalayas in the Ladakh region of northwest India. The peak is located in Hemis National Park, 7.5 miles (12 km) southwest of the trailhead at 3,610 metres (11,844 ft) in the village of Stok and around 9.3 miles (15 km) southwest of the Ladakhi capital of Leh.
Kaamya’s father, S Karthikeyan, a commander in the Indian Navy and a mountaineer himself, said:
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.
Reaching the Stok Kangri peak, located in Kashmir, involves climbing 19 miles (30 km) over a course of three days. But the altitude gain over those three days is a strenuous 2,750 metres (9,022 feet). On the final day, the team started at 10pm and managed to reach the summit almost 12 hours later.
The group had to wear special equipment and were harnessed to each other to avoid slipping. As they neared the peak, other climbers 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” said Kaamya.
The trek back down was another 7 hours, which made the total climb a gruelling 19 hours.
Kaamya was brought up enjoying the outdoors. She is an intermediate level skier, and has also run mini-marathons. Over the last year, she has also completed several high-altitude treks like Chandrashila and Roopkund. Kaamya said:
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.
According to her parents, Kaamya wasn’t too tired afterwards and in fact started playing Sudoku right after they returned. And for her next challenge, the family plan to take her to Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Kaamya’s goal right now, though, is to become a forest officer. Why? “I guess it’s because I can be with nature.” she replied.