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
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.”
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.