The first step is crucial for everyone, says youngest Everester Poorna Malavath

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Taking the first step is very important and have the courage to move away from your comfort zone. This was the message that Poorna Malavath, the youngest person to climb Mount Everest, gave the audience at the Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters (MBIFL 2023) .

Recalling her embarkation on the journey that took her to the highest mountain in the world in 2014, Malavath said she had no idea about mountain climbing when she grew up in Pakala, in Telangana state, which was part of Andhra Pradesh when she was born.

“My village was so remote that even to get a matchbox, we had to travel seven kilometres to the nearest shop. The nearest hospital was 60 km from my village,” she said, explaining the remoteness of the world that she grew up in.

Malavath, who holds the record as the youngest climber to conquer Mt Everest when she was 13 years and 10 months, said the first rock climbing training had her literally shivering when one of the participants from her group fell down and injured her head which needed medical attention. But the successful completion made her determined to continue her journey into adventure sports.

“Many people were questioned me about my choice and they were wondering why anyone, let alone a girl, would want to go climbing mountains. For them, a girl was supposed to go to school for a while, then get married and settled down,” she said.

The champion climber, who features in the elite group of climbers conquering the seven summits (seven highest mountains spread across the globe), said her decision to continue the sport despite the scary rock climbing training she got initially changed her life trajectory.

“At 13 I decided to pursue rock climbing and here I am, standing in front of you as a postgraduate who has climbed Mt Everest and the seven summits. My friend who got married at 13 now sends her children to the same school we studied together,” she pointed out.

Answering questions from the audience, Malavath said she got her parents to support her passion by instilling confidence in them about her ability and seriousness. “Make your parents confident about your ability to achieve your aim and then they will support you,” she told a 30-year-old who said she was struggling to gain confidence of her parents even for routine chores.

The young mountaineering expert said she wants to set up a system which will support young enthusiasts, especially girls, to venture into adventure sports like mountain climbing.

Malavath, who was listed on the Forbes India list of self-made women in 2020, said she plans to personally help anyone who wants to know about training and practice adventure sports.

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