26 May 2023  |   04:44am IST

To the Everest and beyond

Everest is only the beginning for 13-year-old Shanaya Verlekar. On May 7, she summited the highest base camp in the world along with her mother Karishma. A legacy of orophile parents motivated the youngster to take on the expedition during her summer vacation, making her one of the youngest Goan to have achieved this feat
To the Everest and beyond

Janice Noronha

Leaving the comforts of her home, young and dauntingly motivated Shanaya Verlekar, hailing from the bustling city of Margao, made the journey to the ‘top of the world’ so to say, with an insurmountable grit, passion and determination. At just 13 years of age, she traced the same route that Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay, Lhakpa Sherpa and her parents themselves took to reach the astounding and awe-inspiring feet of the 5,360 meters high Everest Base.

Not only is it the highest base camp in the world, it is also the world’s most famous high-altitude trek. The iconic trek starts at Lukla in the southern part and the trail, weaves towards Namche Bazaar in the north, where the mountaineers stay for a while to rest and acclimatize. Her father, Gautam Verlekar mentions the great importance of this part of the trek as it really helps the climbers to adapt to the high altitudes and climatic conditions that they will soon experience as they continue their journey. The trek takes around 12- 13 days, so endurance and stamina are key.

As an athlete and a badminton aficionado, training came easy to her. “I went to the gym for a while and even missed a few of my badminton classes to train. During the weekends, we used to go to the Chandreshwar Parvat located at Paroda, which we trekked quite often over the course of the two months prior to the expedition,” states Shanaya.

It isn’t an easy journey to trek all the way to the top. Daily, one must walk for around 6 to 7 hours. The last few days are particularly enervating. On the final day of the ascent, they began the trek at around 5 am and trekked from Lobuche to Gorak Shep for four hours straight. On May 9, at around 1 pm, Shanaya and her mother Karishma Verlekar, summited the Mount Everest base camp, making Shanaya one of the youngest Goans to have done so.

What inspired her to take on the Everest? She is quick to reply that it was her parents. Her family and friends were extremely delighted by her achievement. “Personally, it didn’t matter to me if she completed it or not. The very fact that she chose to do it itself was a victory for us as parents; and that our child at thirteen can think that ‘I want to do it’ or ‘I can do it’ is because of certain elements around her and so maybe, we are doing something right,” her father proudly says.

Her father also mentions that it was the simplicity and biophilic nature of these people that captured their hearts. “Everything is so natural; it’s a small village. The locals use a solar cooker to cook, they actively compost their waste, and you will notice that all along there is not an ounce of dirt on the route. The residents will themselves pick up a wrapper if they find one and put it in the nearest bin, and provisions are made to regularly clean these dustbins. They have everything,” he adds, “They have phones, electricity and water but they use them consciously and conserve it. They store water use it legibly and urge others to do so as well. And that is what I believe is the biggest lesson for anybody- to learn about our planet, to learn how to preserve and care for it and live sustainably on it.”

To all of the aspiring mountaineers and youngsters out there, Shanaya has a message for you, “You mustn’t fear anything, grit your teeth and just do it. It is an awesome experience and above all it really improves your life skills. The life skills that you gain from such experiences- nothing or nobody else can teach you. It is not that difficult, you just have to believe in yourself.” She emphasises that if you believe in yourself, irrespective of whether you are in your teens or in your 60s and 70s, you can do it. She also expressed her desire to continue going on expeditions to various other summits. Lastly, she implores all of the youngsters to leave their phones at home and explore the outdoors.


Idhar Udhar