“Adventure without risk is Disneyland” - says Jaahnavi, the youngest girl in the world to scale Mt. Elbrus
Mrs. S. Saraswathi
Dr. S. Krishna Rao
2nd Nov, 2001
Proudly says ‘imd1’ for
It is said, Your Attitude decides your Altitude! With Jaahnavi who impressively walked up to Mt Elbrus and became the youngest to scale it, we can say the ALTITUDE highlights her Attitude! At the age of 15+, Jaahnavi’s achievements are scaling high with her dedication, the strong support of her parents and her guides who are helping her to reach new highs further.
Team imd1 got a chance to meet Jaahnavi and her father at the ground level!! Read on to get inspired by their views:
We are really keen to know, how did your journey begin?
It all began when I was 10 months old. My dad went on to climbing mountains. The unusual part was, on one of his expedition, he had put me in his backpack that he had designed himself. That was the first time I was exposed to the wild side of nature. He used to keep going on such treks and even took groups of people with him. By the time, I turned 3 years of age, I had already started accompanying him. As a part of extra-curricular activities apart from drawing and classical dancing, I even started going to the Himalayan mountain trekking, at the age of 9. My first check was Roopkund in Uttrakhand which is at 16000 feet above sea level. The year next to that, I went to the Himalayan winter trek.
Quote for Life
Food I love
Fish Curry, Mutton, Mom’s special Dish- Ladyfinger & potato slice
Food I hate
Had I not been Mountaineer then..
Like Vacations at
Anywhere in the world
Favorite Past time
Sleeping, Listening Music, Classical Dance & Singing
Adventure without Risk is Disneyland
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Dangal
Prabhas, Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, Sridevi, Aishwarya Rai
I used to travel a lot abroad before I got married. When my wife was pregnant, I was pretty confident that it will be a girl. I wanted to make my daughter a supergirl before she was even born and wanted to prove that Indian girls can do everything. In the year 2002, when Jaahnavi was 10 months old, I took her in a modified military bag. I had added some cushions to it to make it comfortable for her. That"s when I started to give her the exposure. My wife supported me completely. She knew whatever I did was doing for a reason and hence, never denied it but, had full confidence in me. We wanted to make Jaahnavi strong, both physically & mentally.
What’s your success mantra?
“Adventure without risk is Disneyland.” In this massive journey of life, we have to cross through so many hurdles. We take risk and realize where we go wrong. You are just not on an adventure if you do not take a risk. Disneyland, and not adventure, is your option to have fun if you do not want to take the risk.
What were the hardships / hurdles you encounter and the way you overcame them in your journey?
Unpredictable weather conditions high above in the mountains are the basic form of hardships. Anything can happen anytime. Everything happens so quickly - the sun comes up to make it very hot, then, it starts raining to make it extremely windy and cold. I like to call this "expect the unexpected." Plus, you just can"t give your body what it cannot take. If you are not fit for something, you cannot opt for it. There is no point risking your life. The way out of this problem is to train yourself perfectly and then, take up the activity. Adaptation plays a key role. Being an Indian, I am automatically fond of a variety of tasty meals, filled with masala but, this isn"t what a mountaineer can eat. I remember, when we went to Africa & Europe, we were served Tuna fish. It was tasteless and I just couldn"t bear the smell of the fish. I hardly ate any of it and was ultimately starving. Call it the tasteless hospital food which is served to patients but, that"s how it is. Moreover, mountaineering is an expensive costly sport. No one finances it, it is just us. My father left his job four years ago for travelling with me. My mother is a teacher but, gradually we are exhausted when it comes to our financial resources. I have crossed so many records but, when it comes to monetary gains we are nowhere.
Not to forget, communication is a big issue. The local people who live on the mountains do not know English. Even through signs we are able to understand only vaguely.
Finally, being a girl, the society expects me to follow the general routine of going to school, studying and coming back home. People ask me why I involve myself in mountaineering. All I do is, listen it from one ear and un-listening it from the other. I know my parents are right beside me as support systems to encourage me. I really want to change the society and the way it perceives the girls.
Success is incomplete without its share of failures. How should one overcome them to move on?
We need a significant number of highs and lows in order to know where we stand in life. Take the instance of ECG monitor, the green lines that go up and down imply we are alive. Straight lines are representation of being dead. Failures are extremely important, they make us stronger. By learning from them we know what we do not need to do and what we actually need to start doing.
However, I have an entirely different story of my failures. It is not while I am on my journey in the mountains but, entirely before it. Before the mission, I have to go and run some tests and inspections to prove that I am physically alright. Till the last moment my parents and I were after people who promised to help us. Usually, the reason for failure is trusting the wrong person. There were times when I had to abort the mission because of some financial crisis. It meant wasting an entire year and not being able to make a record. But, life has its rules and we can"t deny them. All we can do is put in our continuous efforts.
Do you think mountaineering and its learning’s can be helpful in life even if one does not want to consider it as a career goal?
Absolutely! We learn about a lot of things through nature. You discover more about yourself and your inner talents. While climbing self-realization is the most basic phenomenon. You come to know just how much confident you are. You are all alone on a mountain and have to motivate yourself on your own when nobody is around you. There is no one to cheer you from the crowd. When you are totally exhausted, you have to cheer yourself up and tell yourself that you can do it and resume climbing.
If you don’t want to take mountaineering as a career, you can pursue it as a passion or a hobby. Mountaineering is not about small appreciations at all. It is all about conquering ranges. Being passionate about it, being close to the nature, you can feel a certain kind of peace. It can bring a lot of discipline in your personality. Take the example of people who want to quit smoking; if they engage in mountaineering, they know that they have to keep themselves fit by being away from the smoke while climbing. I always recommend people to try going to small mountains and have a great time conquering the peaks.
Who has been your influencer in this journey & how?
My dad along with Malli Mastan sir are the biggest influencers. Malli sir was a mountaineer and he passed away in one of his expedition. I admire him because my mission resembles his. He created the world record of “fastest seven summiteers” in just 172 days. Being an IITian, he left everything in his life and was dedicated towards just mountaineering. That"s the kind of passion I love to see in my own self.
Which was “that” moment when you considered yourself as “I am the 1”?
In 2016, I went to Mt. Denali (also known as Mt. McKinley) which is the highest peak of North America. I felt like I"m the 1 when I conquered it. I learnt a lot during that time. For initial half of the journey, my father was with me. The remaining was with my group. In that adventure, I realized the kind of trouble my dad took to make me achieve my dreams. Hard is a very small word to explain the intensity of difficulty of technical climbing. From getting caught in a snow/drought to climbing in that negative temperature of up to minus 40 degrees, from carrying a heavy backpack to trying to cope up with the speed of my guide, everything made me realize that the path I had chosen was certainly not an easy one. I remember, there was an area where we were in snow upto 100 meters. We had to make our way up to 14000 camp. All I had was the thought of reaching the top of the peak no matter what. Mt. Denali is considered one of the deadliest peak in the world and is also tougher than climbing the Everest. We can count the number of people who have gone to the Everest but, the number comes down drastically when we count the number of people that have reached the peak of Mt. Denali from India.
Did you get any formal training and how was that journey?
When I was 9 years of age, my father gave me a basic training. Then, I completed my basic coaching for mountaineering from the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute (HMI) in Darjeeling. We need a lot of physical and mental strength to be eligible for getting trained in mountaineering. In India, there is a shortage of institutes that provide proper technical knowledge on the subject. When I went to Mt. Denali in North America, I did a basic Glacier rescue course where I was taught the ways to escape the troubles on a glacier. I will keep taking up various types of advance training sessions in the future, as and when I get the opportunity.
What are the pre-coaching essentials e.g. Right age, mindset or any other?
It is extremely difficult for Indians to go outside India and get trained as it takes a lot of money. In India, there are a number of restrictions. People hardly have any knowledge about mountaineering. However, in other countries, children start hiking and trekking from a young age of 5 and 6 years of age or even before. Parents take their children for outdoor activities and encourage them to make fitness their main game. In India, it is exactly opposite. It is only when children get older, the parents try to get them out of their comfort zone. Last year, I had gone to an event where I met a 10 year girl old girl, Ria who was really passionate about trekking and wanted to go for the Everest base camp. However, when I spoke to her parents, they told me that various groups rejected her because she was too young for an expedition like that. I took the opportunity to guide her. Ria and her mother joined me on the expedition making me the youngest guide in India for Everest Base Camp.
Technology and scientific training has been changing the way people get trained in mountaineering. What’s your take?
In the olden days, technology was not available. Once the climber started his/her expedition and came back to the city, no one would get the confirmation about the well being of the person. But, now times have developed tremendously. I would mention rescue missions especially. If a climber is caught up in a glacier, a chopper can come to rescue him/her within no time and can be spotted immediately the exact location with Satellite technology, which I use with the support of SPOTNZ for my safety.
When we talk about systematic training, the type of equipment we use plays a significant role. In olden days, the backpacks used to be very heavy. Not to forget the weight of ropes and oxygen cylinders made it even heavier. It is much lighter in current times. However, it is all about training your body to carry that kind of weight. Mountaineering is something where you need to be fit from head to toe. For instance, you just need muscle power if you are into athletics but, mountaineering requires hand & leg power too.
How can one select an ideal ‘Guru’ for getting formal training for mountaineering?
Before anyone else, parents are the first gurus. They are the ones who lead the child towards a good path and wish for their child"s success. After that, there is a need of a person who is an expert in the kind of field the child wants to pursue - a professional guru. This guru should be capable of giving the student valuable advice and also, make the student improve upon his mistakes. Observation is the most important trait of an ideal guru.
It starts with parents. They are the ones who have to take the decision of choosing the first professional guru by analysing various aspects. This guru should be passionate about the activity that the child wishes to pursue and not just passionate about teaching. He has to be dedicated towards it completely. In the olden days, there used to be a system of guru dakshina whereas now, it is all commercialized with various packages. A student has to choose between standard and premium. One needs to find a guru who is selfless, passionate and dedicated towards the basics of teaching and his student"s development.
What according to you,can be a scope for improvement in training for mountaineering in India?
The scope can be built only through awareness at first. People are not aware of mountaineering as a sport. I found people really eager to know about it. So, yes, it needs to be talked about more often. The next thing is a little scare from the very essence of mountaineering. They think it is risky but, are not aware about the safety measures we take to avoid any kind of damage to an individual. I believe, basic trekking can be inculcated as a form of an extracurricular activity in schools. Students can be trained to be fit and then taken on a trekking expedition. If a student shows more interest, he should be encouraged to move on to the advance levels.
Awareness about the sport is the most essential step to build its scope. Even in Olympics, 20-20 sports climbing are the trending ones. Mountaineering is an expensive sport and also has lesser exposure. The rural crowd can do wonders if they have a deeper understanding about the sport. All we need to do is upgrade ourselves. If other countries are doing it, why can"t we? It has nothing to do with competition but just enhancing the local talent by giving them the exposure through knowledge and technology.
What do you suggest for better accessibility of mountaineering in remote parts of India?
There are a number of people in the remote areas who are actually good in mountaineering. This is because they are used to work through their human power in villages unlike the fast urban crowd which uses machines and modern equipments to perform their daily tasks. Such people need to identified in the rural area and then, they need to be explained the future scope of mountaineering. But, at the end it will all depend upon whether they are convinced about the fact that they can do it or not. Conducting workshops and giving them of what the knowledge of what is actually this sport can help a lot.
Although government is developing sports training in the rural areas, mountaineering is not on the agenda. Thus, workshops which explain the benefits of a professional opportunity in mountaineering need to be conducted. People in rural areas naturally climb mountains and hills. They need to be motivated to think about it from a professional standpoint. The urban crowd has to be trained but, the rural crowd is naturally fit. If we provide them the information, I bet they will prove to be better climbers.
In your opinion, what are the basic key traits apart from formal training that make “imd1”?
According to me, I feel how one makes its mind work matters a lot. Their mindset, and perspective towards hard work and the way we think only that brings effective results. Also, having an optimistic and creative approach rather than regular and casual thinking is what makes a person I AM THE 1.
To the parents, I would like to suggest what I personally am practicing. Let"s take the example of doctors and lawyers, people are not living in this realistic world instead they"re living for the society. Just like, my relative is a doctor so my son should also be a doctor. Most common thinking is like, if the parents are doctor their son should also be a doctor which is not at all correct, they should let the child grow up first, understand what your child is interested in, observe his activities and then guide him in his interests.
One thing which you feel you want to change from the past while you walk down memory lane…
One thing I"d like to change from my past is, the society"s support. I really wanted more and more support from them, they just have to be a little aware to support, because every information is on the internet they don"t have to work hard on being aware about it. Another thing I"d like to change in the society is their perception towards girls, Its a myth that if a girl is pretty she cannot be good in sports, and as I mentioned earlier #AmPrettyTough; it was for the society.
Over the last few years we have seen girls excelling in every field not just to beat boys but also to prove the society wrong. Girls also have the passion and desire to achieve greater heights all they need is proper guidance and motivation to reach to that height.
How can one identify & encourage talent in the family?
To identify and encourage talent, firstly, parents have to take initiative to understand their child"s activities and give them options, choices and then guide them on which path they have to get in! Secondly, parents also have to explain to them what is good or bad and not forcing their interest on their child. Most of the parents they try to fulfill their interest and dreams into their child & pressurise them to become doctors, engineers which they couldn"t become in their time.
First and foremost is that parents must know their child"s activities at home because child spends most of the time with them. For example, if you see your child inclined to climbing related activities; that indicates your child"s interest. Take your child to all kinds of places and observe where they enjoy most and what is happening to them. Rather than going to movies or picnics, try going to place where your child can see his passion, show them music channel, sports channel. It helps in identification his interests and he also gets exposed to new industries which is also important.
Any other thoughts you want to share?
I would like to emphasize on the concept of fitness & adventure to everyone. The best part is it does not have any kind of restrictions like, kind of person, age, gender, profession. Everyone should be physically fit & healthy. This is one of the reasons why I started my organisation which is known as "Janjay Adventures” which is a very unique organisation where we impart useful knowledge on fitness & give them the experience of adventure. Recently we have launched the program known as "Fit Venture" where we had a group of people who have come down to experience little bit of fitness & little bit of enjoyment in adventure. So our aim from Janjay adventure is to make people crazy for fitness in the society, people should stay happy, healthy and live longer.
I will tell you very openly, never leave your child to regret later in life!