Most kids her age spent the last year-and- a-half trying to cope with virtual schooling amid the pandemic, but 13-year-old Muriki Pulakita Hasvi was busy scaling some of the world’s tallest summits. The Hyderabad girl recently scaled Mt. Kilimanjaro (5895M), after months of rigorous training under extreme weather conditions. The ninth grader, who took eleven days to scale the peak (from September 28 to October 8), says it was a life-changing experience.
“Since I was a little girl, I’ve always been interested in sports. Badminton, cycling, cricket, skating, I’ve played them all. When I watched the film Everest earlier this year, I was inspired by it and wanted to take up mountaineering. After staying cooped up at home for several months during the pandemic, heading to the mountains was just the escape I needed,” says Hasvi, excitedly.
Her parents, Madhavi C Murali and Venkat Satyanayana Murali, were apprehensive when she told them about her plans to take up mountaineering. “They were initially scared but when they realised I was serious about this, they encouraged me and helped me train for this,” says Hasvi.
Along with the online classes for her school, Hasvi began attending classes for mountaineering too. “Walking, consistency, endurance and energy are key to it. So a week before heading to Kilimanjaro, I was asked to train from 11 PM to 5:30 AM to not just get fit but also train myself to not fall asleep, as the trek to the summit starts from midnight and goes till 1:30 PM,” she explains, adding, “It was not easy to walk with 3 kgs of weight strapped to my back and legs. And for months leading up to it, I began taking my diet seriously, cut sugar, ate more protein and worked out as much as I could.”
Travelling during the pandemic was additional challenge for Hasvi, who flew to Tanzania as soon as international travel opened up. “My trip was initially scheduled for September but South Africa hadn’t opened up for international travellers, so we had to wait till things opened up. I had to travel from Hyderabad to Mumbai and from there to Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania). I was extra cautious and wore gloves, masks, used sanitiser throughout my journey. We had a COVID-19 test done at a tiny village near Kilimanjaro and thankfully, I tested negative and was able to proceed.”
While Hasvi did all she could to prepare physically, it was only towards end of the trek that she realised she needed to be mentally strong too. “The first few days were good, I was able to push myself to get to where I needed. But then the weather deteriorated, I felt dehydrated and many of my teammates headed back because they felt sick,” she recollects, adding, “I also had the choice to return back from Gilman’s Point. I was told I could always return back some day in the future to complete it. From there, you can see the peak of Kilimanjaro, it’s near enough but not easy reach. I made the decision to push myself, took on the ascending terrain and completed it.”
The teenager, who enjoyed the experience of scaling her first summit, has her sights set on the seven summit challenge. “I want to scale all the seven summits, with Kilimanjaro down, there’s six more to go (Aconcagua, Denali, Mt. Elbrus, Puncak Jaya and Mt Vinson). Starting with Mt. Elbrus, which I will take on next year,” she adds.