Scaling Mount Elbrus

Published Aug 4, 2015, 4:20 am IST
Updated Jan 13, 2016, 3:53 pm IST
Hyderabadis Jaahnavi Sriperambuduru, 13, and Padmaja Pullabhatla, 36, scale Europe’s highest peak
Jaahnavi Sriperambuduru with Padmaja Pullabhatla during the summit
 Jaahnavi Sriperambuduru with Padmaja Pullabhatla during the summit

On July 31, 13-year-old Jaahnavi Sriperambuduru became the youngest person to scale the highest peak of Europe — Mt. Elbrus (18,510 ft). This is part of Jaahnavi’s #Mission7Summit, through which she wants to raise funds to educate the underprivileged in the country.

“I feel elated to summit Mt. Elbrus and since I am doing it for a cause, I feel even more happy. Besides raising funds, I also want to promote Prime Minister NaMo’s idea of Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao,” says Jaahnavi.

But the journey wasn’t easy. As the 10-member Indian team were making their way to the peak, the weather got worse. “I completed the Mt. Elbrus summit on July 31 at 9.25 am. The weather was bad... it was not stable... But I had decided that come what may, I will complete the summit. I owe it to my guide Alex and also to my personal trainer in Hyderabad Nagapuri Ramesh.”

The Class 9 student of Reqelford International School adds, “When I was 9 years old, I completed the Roopkund Trek (16,000 ft). I then went to the Winter Himalayan Expedition when I was 10. Since for this expedition only those above 16 years of age were allowed, my father had to get the necessary permissions.”

It was only later that Jaahnavi learnt about the 7 Summit Mission. “It was my father S. Krishna Rao, who told me about the 7 Summit Mission and I was excited about it. To check if I was fit enough, my dad took me to Stok Kangri (around 20,000 ft), near Ladakh. I completed the summit when I was 12 years old, on August 14, 2014, and became the youngest person to summit it,” she says. The same year, on October 2, Jaahnavi became the youngest girl from India to reach the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro (16,000 ft).

Jaahnavi has undergone a lot of training and has also completed the Basic Mountaineering Course from Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling. She has also been trained in para-sailing, rappelling and rock climbing among others.

“I had also planned to scale Mt. Everest but couldn’t do it as I did not have sponsors. But I am glad that I did not go ahead since the earthquake hit Nepal just then.”

Jaahnavi’s next aim is to summit Mt. Kosciuszko (Australia), Mt. Aconcagua (South America), Mt. Vinson Massif (Antarctica), Mt. Everest and Mt. Denali (North America) and she is currently looking for sponsorship for the same.

For the Mt. Elbrus summit, which cost her around Rs 4 lakh, 70 per cent of the cost was borne by her father Krishna Rao, who is also her trainer, a mountaineer and a high-altitude rescuer. And the rest by her sponsor Sahasara Foundation, who came on board at the last minute.

A head for heights

On July 31, another Hyderabadi who completed the Mt Elbrus summit was 36-year-old Padmaja Pullabhatla. “My first Himalayan trek was the Everest Base Camp. Kala Patthar, Chadar and Goecha La Trek, etc. are a few more on the list.”

Talking about the expedition, Padmaja says, “We first had to get accustomed to the new climate conditions. We then trained on snow for a few days before starting. It was a strenuous trek, high winds and bad weather made it tougher, but we made it.”

“I hadn’t been working out for a long time, so physical training and breathing exercises were the two things I worked on before starting the expedition. Also, it was an expensive affair,” adds Padmaja, who also organises treks with GHAC, Hyderabad.

Before planning the Mt Elbrus summit, Padmaja tried Stok Kangri, but couldn’t. But that did not hold her back. “I was a bit depressed for not being able to summit Stok Kangri, but it was because of bad weather, which you have no control on. I also found out where all I was lacking and worked on it. Though I had less time before taking up Mt Elbrus, Akash, who was leading this expedition, prepared me,” she says adding, “To take up summits you need to be mentally strong more than being physically fit. You also need to do a good survey of weather conditions. Most importantly, you shouldn’t give up hope.”

For those who want to summit Mt Elbrus, Padmaja has some advice. “Firstly, you need to be physically fit. Do hill training, running, cycling, swimming, etc. Learn breathing techniques for high altitude. Yoga too helps. Have all your high altitude equipments and perfect clothing ready.”