Page 3 Profile: Malavath Purna, mountaineer

 

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The Independent Online

Ain’t no mountain high enough?

Not as far as 13-year-old Malavath Purna is concerned. The daughter of two Indian farm labourers has become the youngest female ever to scale Mount Everest.

Not exactly your average teenager, then…

Accompanied by her 16-year-old team-mate Sadhanapalli Anand, Malavath reached the 29,035ft summit at about 6am on Sunday after a 52-day trek. The duo, both from Telangana, in Andhra Pradesh state, scaled Everest in the week that marks the 61st anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay becoming the first to conquer the mountain.

How did Malavath end up following in their footsteps?

Last year, she and Sadhanapalli were picked from 150 economically disadvantaged children to have advanced training in adventure sports by a welfare organisation in Andhra Pradesh. They were sent to a mountaineering institute in Darjeeling to train with 18 other young people; half of the group was then picked for an expedition to the India-China border. Malavath and Sadhanapalli were chosen for the Everest expedition in April, in view of their toughness and endurance.

And now she’s a record breaker.

To mark their accomplishment, the teenagers planted their national flag and a picture of BR Ambedkar, the architect of India’s constitution, at the top. They are now climbing back down to base camp and due to arrive back in Hyderabad in the first week of June.

Can Malavath expect a  hero’s welcome?

Undoubtedly. Praveen Kumar, the secretary of Andhra Pradesh’s social welfare hostels, is elated with the teenagers’ achievements. “They have created history,” he said. “The statement they made after reaching [the summit] was, ‘Poverty is not a barrier’. For some, all that is needed is an opportunity.” He said Malavath would be “a huge inspiration” to other disadvantaged girls.

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