A class VII student of Mumbai’s CBSE-affiliated Navy Children School, Kaamya Karthikeyan is getting used to experiencing that top of the world feeling from early age. On August 24, Kaamya scaled the summit of Ladakh’s Mt. MentokKangri II (6,250 metres above mean sea level) — her highest peak thus far — after a gruelling eight-hour climb to the summit under extreme weather conditions. Not bad considering she is only 12 years old!
Born into an adventure sports-loving family — Western Navy Commander S. Karthikeyan and her mother Lavanya, an early childhood educator — Kaamya developed an interest in mountain climbing on her father’s knee as he recounted his Himalayan mountain-scaling expeditions.
Starting with weekend treks in Lonavala at age three, by the time she was nine (2016), Kaamya had completed several high altitude Himalayan treks with her parents including Roopkund (5,020 m), Harki Dun (3,566 m) and Chandrasheela (4,000 m) in Uttarakhand. At age ten (2017), she reached the Everest base camp (5,346 m) and later became the youngest mountaineer to scale Stok Kangri peak (6,153 m) in Ladakh. Since then, she has scaled the highest peaks of Africa (Mt. Kilimanjaro, 5,895 m), Europe (Mt. Elbrus, 5,642 m) and Australia (Mt. Kosciuszko, 2,228 m).
Mountain scaling is not child’s play. Under her father’s supervision, this gritty pre-teen follows an exercise regimen which includes daily distance cycling and running stints. On weekends, Kaamya goes on six-hour treks to improve her stamina and endurance.
According to Kaamya, mountaineering has taught her discipline and focus which has enhanced rather than hindered her academic performance. However, this thrilling yet dangerous hobby is expensive. “Overseas expeditions cost us Rs.15-20 lakh. So far, we’ve managed with family savings. We are now approaching companies and government agencies to sponsor her future expeditions,” says Lavanya.
Looking ahead, Kaamya has ambitious plans. “By 2021, my goal is to complete the Explorers Grand Slam which requires competitors to climb the tallest peaks in every continent and ski to the South and North poles. Having conquered the highest mountains of Africa, Australia and Europe, I am now preparing to summit South America’s highest peak Mt. Aconcagua (6,962 m) in January next year,” she enthuses.
Citius, Altius, Fortius!
Dipta Joshi (Mumbai)