Navi Mumbai kids conquer Everest Base Camp
Adventure enthusiast couple's kids prove nothing is impossible as they trek 17,598 feet as part of world's most challenging climb
Even as most parents prefer keeping their kids occupied with gaming gadgets and smartphones, a Navi Mumbai-based trekker couple decided to acquaint their two children with the perilous Himalayas. The risks notwithstanding, their kids, Ayanna, 9, and Shreerang, 6, have achieved a feat only a few their age could have scripted.
Last month, the duo, along with their parents, Vishwanath and Suchitra Mane, climbed 17,598 feet to reach the Everest Base Camp in Nepal, arguably becoming the youngest sibling pair from Mumbai to do so. The trek spanned 16 days and involved climbing around 10 to 12 km daily.
Shreerang, 6, proudly holds the Indian flag after reaching Everest Base Camp
Family of trekkers
Both Vishwanath, who works as an engineer with the BMC, and his wife Suchitra, are avid trekkers. The couple from Airoli has together climbed several ranges across the state and India. In August, the duo decided to get their children, who study at the New Horizon Scholars School in Navi Mumbai, to join them. But, instead of opting for a less arduous climb, the Manes took the toughest path possible — the Everest Base Camp, the world's highest base camp below Mt Everest in Nepal. "My aim was to introduce my kids to nature, but by doing things differently. Climbing higher altitudes is not an easy task. One has to face several challenges, including oxygen depletion, breathlessness and acute mountain sickness," said Vishwanath.
"At their age, most children are occupied with some gadget or the other. I wanted my kids to channelise their energies towards something more real," he added.
Ayanna, Shreerang with their parents
Gearing up for the trek
Vishwanath said that after they broke the news to the children, they could not contain their excitement, and were more than willing to put themselves to the test. In order to prepare them for the tough climb ahead, the parents got the kids into the habit of walking every day. "For three months, we walked around 4 to 5 km every morning, carrying 5 kg of baggage each. We also got them to stop taking the lift, and climb up and down the stairs of our building." Before leaving for the base camp, the couple took their children to Leh in Jammu and Kashmir for a week to acclimatise them with the extreme climate conditions. The family then joined a group of 21 others to climb up to the base camp. They started their journey at Phakding, a small village in the Khumbu region of Nepal, and then went to Namche Bazar and Gorak Shep, before reaching the base camp.
The Mane family at the Everest Base Camp
"The trekkers from other parts of the country and world were quite fascinated to see Shreerang and Ayanna join us," said Suchitra.
Recalling the experience, Suchitra added, "At higher altitudes, we were supposed to drink a lot of water, even if not thirsty. Also, as we went higher, the temperature dropped from 10 degrees Celsius to -3 degree, making the climb very difficult." However, despite a few hiccups, the children took on the mountains effortlessly. "Except for predictable problems like headache due to altitude sickness and breathing, there were absolutely no complaints from them. They made it look so easy for the rest of us," Suchitra added.
When mid-day spoke with Shreerang, he was excited about his recent trek. "I enjoyed the adventure and would love to go for such trips again," he said. Ayanna echoed similar sentiments.
Ayanna, 9, at the base camp
Experts have appreciated the siblings' rare feat. Anusha Subramanian, a trained and certified mountain guide and founder of Bohemian Adventures, said that while there was no way of verifying whether the duo is the first sibling pair from Mumbai to complete the climb, she hasn't heard of anyone else their age, accomplish such a task before. "We don't have a body that monitors such achievements, so it's hard to say. But, it's possible that they could be the youngest." She added, "Nothing excites and makes kids learn more effectively than being able to use their five senses. Trekking is a great way to introduce them to nature and helps children increase their awareness of their own skills and abilities, improve confidence and self-belief in their own abilities."
Word of caution
Anusha Subramanian cautioned that adequate safety measures should be taken when introducing kids to difficult terrains. "It's commendable that the two kids managed to climb up to the Everest Base Camp as it's not an easy trek at all, and definitely not a trek for first-timers," she said. According to Subramanian, higher altitude trekking requires more physical and mental preparation. "At higher altitudes, the air is thinner, there is less oxygen available and it becomes more difficult to breathe. There are serious risks involved, including altitude sickness and acute mountain syndrome that can lead to pulmonary or cerebral oedema. Therefore, before an individual goes on a high-altitude trek, he or she needs to train their body to work efficiently and effectively in environments with less oxygen," she said.
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