‘Never trust your fears; they don’t know your strengths,” said Alvira Tripathi, a Delhi-based mountaineer, who, at only 11 years of age, has become the second-youngest Asian girl to have reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa.

She started her mountaineering training with her father at the age of six. At nine, she climbed the Mount Everest base camp along with her father, who is not a professional mountaineer but has cultivated this hobby with something more than an amateur’s passion. Talking about what inspired her to attempt this adventure at such a young age, Alvira said, “I always like to take up challenges and this gave me a chance to overcome my fears.”

Approximately six weeks before the Kilimanjaro climb in February 2019, Alvira started to train extensively. Her training involved getting up early for a 60-minute run, skipping and other stamina building exercises all of which ended in time for school. In those days, despite being down with a fractured radial elbow, she followed a rigorous exercise routine. Strength training was her focus, too. In addition to the physical exercises, she also paid attention to her sleep cycle and adopted a healthy, nutritious diet.

Alvira with her father, Shwet Ketu, on the summit of Africa’s highest peak.

About her most memorable moment from the Kilimanjaro expedition, she said, “It was the final walk to the top of the mountain. It felt like I was on top of the world, and the view from the top was breathtaking. The glaciers were all around us and looked marvellous. There were clouds everywhere and it all looked like a dream to be standing at a height where these clouds were below us.”

Support from family and school contributed in a big way to her recent achievement. Alvira said, “My parents and grandparents have been really supportive and encouraging. They motivated me whenever I felt nervous and scared, and they never talked about anything that was discouraging. My school gave me official leaves for the trek and they also gave me the school flag to take a picture with it on top of the mountain. My teachers were very encouraging. I even got a chance to talk about my experience at one of the class assemblies in school.”

It took her seven days to complete this expedition—five days to climb up and two days to return to base. She still remembers the day she climbed the summit with great excitement. “That day, we ate dinner at six in the evening and breakfast at 11:30 at night as we were to start the climb at midnight. It was completely dark when we started and our headlights could only cover a small patch of ground in front of us. The terrain was difficult—it rained, then came hail and then it snowed for quite a few hours on our way up. After a certain point, it was all a mind game—it was about pure endurance as it took us 21 hours on the final day by the time we finished.”

During the Kilimanjaro expedition, she followed a strict daily schedule. She began the day with a light breakfast, after which she would trek for eight-nine hours or more to reach the next camp. Early dinner and a sound sleep, Alvira told us, were very important for a fresh start in the morning.

Mountaineering has its risks and Alvira is well aware of the recent “human traffic jam” on Mount Everest. “I think every mountaineer wants to climb Mount Everest because it’s the world’s highest peak. So because of that more and more people are going over there,” she said. “But if people start discovering more mountains and make them more popular, then such traffic jams won’t occur on Everest. Secondly, the Nepal government should issue only a limited number of passes and there should be an appropriate rescue mechanism for mountaineers who may need help”.

With her Kilimanjaro feat, Alvira has certainly set an example for young mountaineers the world over. She also had a few words of advice for them. “To all the young aspiring mountaineers out there, I would say that one should not think about his or her fears. We should focus on our strengths. If a person is a good athlete then he should focus on improving his stamina and speed. Similarly, if one has a good lung capacity then they should take it as a plus point and make that their strength. But more importantly, you trust yourself and remain mentally strong all through.”

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