Climbing Everest, I’ve proved a tribal girl can do something: Malavath Poorna
At just 13 years, Malavath Poorna from Telangana has become the youngest female climber in the world to scale Mount Everest. Speaking with Rohit E David, Poorna discussed how she has emerged from a family of agricultural labourers to become a mountaineer, the difficulties she faced while navigating Mount Everest, the one thought that kept her going — and how she wants to climb many more mountains now:
Congratulations on your feat — please tell us about your family life?
I come from a very poor family. My father and mother are agricultural labourers who spend hours in the fields trying to make ends meet. Both of them together earn Rs 3,000 every month.
Sending me and my siblings to school and looking after my family’s needs is nothing but a challenge for them.
How were you selected for the Everest expedition?
I was hand-picked by the Andhra Pradesh Social Welfare Residential Schools, a government organisation which provides free education to underprivileged groups in society. The organisation took up the challenge to send tribal kids on this expedition.
Can you tell us about the training you underwent?
The training took place over eight months. I was sent to a mountaineering institute in Darjeeling for preparation. While there, i climbed Mount Renock which is 17,000 feet high. I got accustomed to sub-zero temperatures of — 35 degrees Celsius in Ladakh.
Seeing my high endurance level, i was sent on the Everest expedition.
What were some of the difficulties you encountered on Mount Everest?
The winds were pretty harsh and it was also biting cold. Moreover, during the expedition, we had to eat packaged food which was not easy for me to digest. I was frequently throwing up whenever i was given food in those sealed bags as the smell was unbearable for me. I had to rely on soups which were served hot and didn’t come in a packet. It was also not an easy task for me to climb with the oxygen tank.
I really didn’t expect so many obstacles to come my way as i was mentally prepared to climb the highest peak in the world. Moreover, i had climbed the Everest from the Tibetan side as the Nepalese government does not allow climbers below 16 years of age to go on the expedition.
Climbing the Everest was certainly more difficult than i thought — but my willpower to prove that a tribal girl can do something kept me going.
What was the first thing that came to your mind when you reached Mount Everest’s top?
The satisfaction of all the hard work i had done along with quietness and peace just filled me.
My head was held high when i raised India’s flag on the world’s highest peak.
At 13, you can start planning your career now — what do you aim to be?
I want to study and become an IPS officer.
But i also want to climb more mountains around the world.
After the expedition, you met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi — what did he say?
He was encouraging — he told me to keep doing what you are best in and never give up. He also encouraged me to complete my studies — and to always look ahead.