World’s Fastest 7 Summits in 172 days!
Audacious Odyssey of an Indian into the World Mountaineering Annals
An eleven year old, 7th standard kid who stood staring at the statue of a person who attempted Everest twenty years ere hardly knew he would walk into the annals of mountaineering history by chasing his childhood dream. The kid is Malli Mastan Babu and the person was Lt.M.Uday Bhaskar Rao. They were both alumni of Sainik School Korukonda in Andhra Pradesh and both had aspired to summit the tallest peak in the world. Lt.M.Uday Bhaskar Rao, along with five other army officers, who were part of 1985 Indian Army Everest Expedition died above 26,000ft on the flanks of Everest. Malli chose to complete this unfinished mission of his alma-mater alumnus – To Summit Everest!
As destiny defined Malli graduated in Electrical Engineering from N.I.T Jamshedpur, M.Tech in Electronics from IIT Kharagpur and PGDM from IIM Calcutta. His childhood dream grew with him as fervently as his academic endeavor. He kept equipping himself with the basic skills of adventure sports as opportunities arose during his academic years. He always enjoyed the fun and thrill of adventure sports and sought as means to express himself. He hardly knew about the surprise that the future was holding for him. He started Adventure club at IIM Calcutta in 2003 as a sophomore and organized treks in western Himalayas, skiing, rock climbing, rafting and Vipaassana meditation courses. He won the applause of students as well as the professors at IIM Calcutta for his initiatives. He graduated from IIM Calcutta in 2004.
Envisioning & Goal Setting
He undertook the arduous Everest base camp trek by himself in April, attended a Basic Mountaineering course in Manali. He trained himself alone in the Gangotri glacier and Sikkim Himalayas. By the end of 2004 He was planning to become the First Indian to accomplish Seven Summits and not just an Everest Summiteer. In 2005, he summited Kilimanjaro 19,340ft on Jan 20, from a challenging route (Umbwe route) on the mountain in just 3.5 days including descent. On Feb 8, he summited Mt.Aconcagua 22,841ft unguided. This is the tallest peak of Western Hemisphere as well as S.America continent. He achieved this in just 10 days having only a transit visa of 15 days to Argentina. He was supported financially by his NIT batchmates and friends Mr. Karavadi Subba Rao and Souvik Kar, CK Mohan; Srinija, CDV Prasad, IIM Calcutta batchmates and friends Sidhu, Samir Kumar, Santhosh Kumar, and Prashant Singh, Prashant Reddy, Satish Premchandani and Alamuru Uday Kiran for these climbs. Nishant Singhai and Sima Jain developed his website. It is the enthusiastic support and sacrifices of these friends that made him envision this mission. These international climbs gave him more confidence and insights to further stretch his 7summits targets. He now started planning towards being the fastest individual in the world to accomplish seven summits, far ahead from his dream of planning the First Indian 7summits endeavor. To him it matter to be fastest because it’s only through this he can carve a proud place for India in the annals of 7summits achievers. This is the exhibition of the contemporary Indian youth’s uncompromising attitude towards making global impact and thinking big.
Information garnering was the first step and then it was training and possessing focus, drive and passion for the total duration of the mission. He also had to endure the stress and strain of the uncertainty involved. He identified strengthening limbs, lungs and the mind as the critical success factors and designed his training schedule accordingly. Strength in limbs (hands and legs) is what is required to climb the mountain. He achieved this by skipping, running long distances (15-20 miles) and undertaking solo arduous high altitude Himalayan treks. Climbing these high altitude peaks demands extreme training for lungs. He has designed his own Pranayama technique to improve his lung capacity. A strong determination developed from extreme mental strength is required to accomplish this mission. He accredits his mental strength and determination to Vipassana meditation. Besides equipping with these skills, experience is what makes you reach the summits, says Malli. Obtaining visas was the toughest challenge en-route his 7 Summits quest. Capt. M.S. Kohli, the Leader of First Indian Successful Everest Expedition 1965, extended his moral support and help towards getting visas. Garnering financial support was the crux of this endeavor. He didn’t receive any institutional support from either the government or the Indian Mountaineering Foundation. He started discussing options with the alumni of his alma mater(s).
7 Summits Team: People Who made it happen
He was exhausted and almost gave up 7summits and was planning to go for Everest by taking loans. At this juncture, in the last week of September 2005 he heard about the financial support from his Sainik School Korukonda Alumni association (Saikoriana). Mr. Satyam Bheemarasetti coordinated the fund-raising in India and in U.S. it was coordinated by Mr.Varma Nadimpalli and Venkat Devarapalli. Mr. Satyam Bheemarasetti, himself an entrepreneur (Founder of Netsilca), dedicated lot of his time and effort coordinating the fund raising and talking with several friends and corporations. Mr. Prasad Ravella, Mr. Raju Reddy, Mr. Srinivas Pendyala and Srinivas Donepudi alumni of Sainik School Korukonda also helped him in several ways so as to achieve the financial goals. Without the support of the Saikoriana, Malli would not have embarked on the fastest 7summits endeavor. He was also supported by Lanco Group of Companies, Sierra Atlantic and SirRamaChitfunds towards these expeditions. Most of his equipment was sponsored by K.S.Subba Rao, Souvik Kar and his friends living in San Francisco. Srinija, Mr.G.Krishna, Prashant Reddy, Govinda Rajulu and his class mates (SSK85-92 Yahoo group) and M.R.S Reddy were other of his friends who raised significant funds for him. With the initiative of Sainik School Korukonda alumni and friends’ support, Malli’s hopes soared not only for summiting Everest but also accomplishing the First Indian 7 Summits as well as Fastest 7 Summits. Mr. Satyam Bheemarasetti and his friends have coordinated most of the fund rising and an expedited visa to US. It’s because of his friends efforts (Madhusudhan and Anupam - IIMC 40th & 41st batches) that he was able to get Russian visa and hence climb Mt. Elbrus. He enjoyed complete faith and support from his sister though it was very tough for her to part with his youngest brother. His mother braving herself let her youngest son embark on this 7summits mission, consoling that it’s an achievement beyond individual and family. It will be his family that has to face the stark destitution in case of danger to him, yet they ate their apprehensions and bid him a brave adieu with smiles on their faces. He enjoyed the blessings and well wishes of professors of IIM Calcutta and many friends and well wishers.
Antarctica To Alaska via Everest: Adventure Unleashed!
He arranged to collect the Indian Flag, his School flag of Sainik School Korukonda, the Photograph of Lt. M.U.B.Rao, and the IIM Calcutta logo. It gave him immense pride to stand on the tallest points of the continents with these fond mementoes. His 7 Summits endeavor is a tribute to his senior and a gift to the nation. His friends CK Mohan and Sidhu bid adieu at Mumbai Airport each time he left the nation to summit the tallest peak in each of these continents.
He embarked on the Fastest 7 Summits mission on Dec 25, 2005 from India to Antarctica. Mt.Vinson Massif expedition took off on 12th of Jan 2006 from Punta Arenas, Chile. To protect one-self from the fatal cold conditions of negative 40 degrees is the most challenging part, reminisces Malli. It’s also difficult to adapt to the 24 hrs day light conditions of Antarctica because of it’s proximity to the South Pole. This significantly disturbed the eating and sleeping hours of the climbers. Besides these, there were some steep sections on the mountain which required to be climbed with fixed ropes. He reached the summit on 19th Jan 2006 and became the First Indian to summit Mt.Vinson Massif, the tallest in the continent of Antarctica.
Immediately after flying out of Antarctica and arriving in Chile, Malli started planning and preparing for his Aconcagua climb. Unfortunately, he was again embroiled in visa problems arising out of ignorance of immigration officers in Buenos Aires while transiting into Santiago from India. Indian Embassy in Santiago, Chile came to his help in overcoming the visa issues and was instrumental in issuing a fresh tourist visa for 30days. Capt. M.S. Kohli, leader of First Indian Successful Everest Expedition 1965 helped Malli in resolving the visa issues. Malli flew for Argentina on 6th of Feb and completed the formalities with purchase of permits and headed for the mountain on Feb 8th. He attempted Aconcagua in alpine style with bare essentials.
The following excerpt in his own words throws some light on the Aconcagua ascent, “I was stuck in a snow storm just short of 500mts to the summit, at the entrance of Canaleta. I waited more than an hour to try my luck hoping for better weather and to take advantage of long days of southern continent summers. On my third attempt, I packed my backpack with sleeping bag, cooking gear and rations with an intention to sleep on the mountain incase of exhaustion due to long hours or bad weather and to cook food whenever conditions favored or felt hungry. I started from Nido Condores Camp 5200m at 8:30PM seeing the clear clouds and not sure of the future. I arrived at Berlin camp in 2 hrs and decided to take rest and squeezed beside the snow lumps, inside a very small wooden shelter at Berlin Camp. I started for the summit at 2AM. When I reached white rocks I was feeling very exhausted, cold, hungry and sleepy. I was successful in lighting the stove after several attempts and made some tea. Then I slept inside the sleeping bag under a big rock. I left White Rocks and headed for the summit at 6AM. After a brave endeavor I reached the summit on Feb 17 and descended to the Berlin camp and slept at 5800mt.”
Malli flew out of Argentina on Feb 28th and arranged for travel to Tanzania to attempt Kilimanjaro. He summited Kilimanjaro on Mar 15 via the Macheme route. He allowed himself to acclimatize well and ascended in 6days. After Kilimanjaro, it was Kosciuszko 7310ft in Australia. It’s only a walk in the park and all it required were the efforts in arranging visa and travel. He got the Australian visa with the help of Capt. M.S. Kohli and left for Sydney in the last week of March. He summited on April 1st. By now, his idea to summit each of the seven summits on different days of the week had become very firm and he wanted to try hard. He started planning his Everest ascent accordingly.
He was able to get registered for Everest climb with “Summit Climb”, a guided expedition team by taking loans from his school alumni. He arrived in Mumbai from Australia on 6th April. His Everest expedition had left from Kathmandu towards Everest base camp on 4th April. He learnt that Kathmandu was in the middle of political turmoil and was very unsafe. He flew from Delhi on April 8th and was greeted with a curfew in Kathmandu. He managed to put himself up in a hotel near the international airport. Kathmandu was completely paralyzed, with communications cut off and strict curfew conditions. On 11th April, he flew from Kathmandu to Lukla by the 9:30AM flight; He savored the view of the majestic Himalayan range during the flight; little was he aware of the shocking surprise awaiting him at Lukla.
He got out of the plane and let the fresh breath of Khumbu touch his face and feel the smell of history that lured many intrepid men into its lap. As time passed and the crowd started moving away with their luggage he started to look out for his baggage and was filled with inexplicable premonition of poignant feeling. Slowly the unrest has increased and it was no sooner, before he was completely enveloped by the shock of veracity of missing his quintessential climbing gear. His climbing gear, with which he had been climbing and had developed ease and fondness on the mountains, was now missing. The following words explain his feelings then – “I gazed at the mammoth mountains staring at me and throwing the challenge, if you want to climb Everest then it’s not your way but our way!” He draws strength from a shloka in Bhagavadgita “Hatova pranyashashi swrg; jitvava bhokshya se mahim. Thasmadushtidh yudhaaye kritha nischay!”
(Die, you will win heaven; Conquer, You win the sovereignty of the Earth. Therefore stand up, Arjuna determined to fight!) (Chapter 2.37)
Undeterred Malli flew to Kathmandu the next day and purchased whatever he could in between the curfew free hours and arranged to fly again to Lukla on 13th April. The same day he resumed the trek towards Everest Base camp. On 15th April at 11:30AM he joined his team in Base camp. On 17th April Malli crossed the formidable Khumbu ice fall. On 21st Base camp was enveloped in gloom with the news of three Sherpas missing in the icefall. Everyone understands that, on these big mountains “missing” is only a euphemism for “death”. Malli had to plan the whole acclimatization program and schedule for himself. He was his own leader as well as climber. He slept alone at several camps. On May 10th, he slept alone at 24,000ft in camp 3 very well aware that one of his team-mate was affected with frost bite here and had to be evacuated by the rescue helicopter from the base camp. After this final acclimatization he was ready for the Summit assault.
Malli, used to visit this Indian expedition and during meals time one of BSF members’ hilarious discussions with the Sherpa cook has led to the misunderstanding and resulted in a very unfortunate situation. On May 14, just before leaving for summit push, he was attacked by a mad group of Sherpas belonging BSF (Border Security Force) Expedition leaving him hurt in his leg. He was left to defend himself alone while complete BSF expedition members including leader was busy with their lunch though it was solely because of BSF members’ remarks and Sherpas’ misunderstanding. It was hard for him to recover from this shocking experience. This was another shocking experience he overcame on Everest quest.
He started from base camp and reached Camp 2 on 18th May. He spent one rest day at Camp2, 22,00ft. On May 19 slept at Camp3, 24000ft and then on 20th headed to the death zone, the South col at 26,000ft.He arrived at 4PM and tried to sleep but the excitement of the summit and the gravity of the place hardly allowed him any. It was here that his childhood school alumnus along with five other army officers had perished due to bad weather. This made him more poignant and yet he became more determined to attempt the summit. Malli chose to summit on May 21st fully aware that it was not a favorable summit day as weather reports suggested bad weather. He chose this day so as to accomplish seven summits on seven different days of the week. He and the Mountain Trip Expedition team from US were the only people who attempted summit on May 21st.
“We kept drinking liquids and ate chocolates and noodles trying to store as much energy as possible for the summit push. We kept checking our oxygen system: the valve and the oxygen flow rate, our protective clothing system, and filled our water bottles. I had taken “Bhagavadgita and a string of beads that I got from Rishikesh”. We offered our prayers to protect and give us the strength to achieve our goal. We left for the summit at 10:30 PM that night.”
Malli arrived at the Balcony in 4hrs and then switched the oxygen cylinders with new ones, drank water and ate chocolates. After resting for nearly half an hour, he took steps towards the summit. Climbing the steep high exposed ridge sent tremors but he regained his composure with grit and kept inching towards the summit. Soon he was walking the history that he had been reading since childhood. The pictures that he had seen the books were a reality now and he was part of it. He climbed the south summit, 28,750ft and the formidable Hillary step and was soon on the final cornice ridge undulating to the top of the world. Malli experienced the frost bit signals, his fingers were swollen, his vision became severely blurred due to snow-blindness and the extreme exposure and exhaustion demanded Herculean effort and will power to place the next foot ahead of the other. He reached the summit at 7:03hrs when the sun was trying to penetrate through the dense clouds and the unrestricted view of the infinite stretch of beauty was beyond articulation of words.
Reaching the summit is only a job half done and descent is more dangerous on Everest and has claimed many lives. He made to the summit camp in four hours. He arrived in Base camp on 23 May and that’s when he allowed himself to congratulate on summiting the tallest peak of the world. It was his pilgrimage and tribute to his Alma-mater alumnus. His vision didn’t improve for another 10days after he reached Kathmandu. Soon He was engrossed in the preparation for the Elbrus ascent. Only obtaining visas proved challenging. His friends (Madhusudhan and Anupam – IIM C 40 & 41st batches) made all visa as well as travel arrangements. He summited Elbrus in two days starting from Terskol. It was very windy and he was lifted off the mountain a few times, quotes Malli. He summited Elbrus on June 13, Tuesday.
He had only Denali left and Monday to ascend. It was already July and the climbing season on Denali was over. After requesting several expedition companies, Alaska Mountaineering School agreed to lead the Expedition. His was the last team to register for the permits on Denali for that season. There were very few people on the mountain. He flew from Talkeetna on July 4th and resumed the climb from Kalhitna glacier at 2AM on 5th July. Colby Coombs, Malli and Johsua reached the summit on July 10th, Monday. It’s a remarkable day in the annals of Indian mountaineering history. It’s sweet present from Malli to mother India. This is the culmination of Malli’s audacious adventurous odyssey. They descended to Base camp and flew for Talkeetna on June 12th.
8th Summit: 1st Indian ascent of Mt.Carstensz Pyramid: Oceania’s tallest peak
After his accomplishment of 7 Summits with the ascent of Denali, Malli was felicitated at several locations in US. He was felicitated at the Silicon Valley in San Jose, Los Angeles, New York and Dallas. Malli gave motivational talks at TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) in Silicon Valley, HCL Tech in Chicago, Indotronix in New York and several other corporate houses sharing his incredible experiences and helping people achieve their own summits. He was conferred the Title “The Pride of India” by Indian American Friendship Council (IAFC) at Dallas Felicitation. Telugu Association of North Texas raised funds for his attempt of Mt.Carstensz Pyramid (tallest peak of Australasia), which he summated on October 28, 2006(Saturday). Dr. Yogi Chimata and Mr. Prasad Thotakura coordinated this fund raising event at Dallas in Texas.
After completing these climbs, Malli wants to promote the spirit of adventure in India and abroad. He attributes four dimensions of learning from Adventure activities: Personality learning (courage, risk taking capability, decision making, self confidence & self esteem), Academic learning (Culture, history, flora & fauna), Physical learning (Fitness, stamina and meditation) and Creative learning (Trip Dairy, Photo Album, Poetry/writings, souvenirs). He has strong desire to start a company of his own to organize treks and expeditions incorporating the above leadership training frame work, for students and corporations. He is also exploring his imagination to take up a dream as enthralling as seven summits to quench his thirst for taking up challenges.
7 Summits Execution
|| Jan 19, 2006
|| Feb 17, 2006
|| Mar 15, 2006
|| April 1, 2006
|| May 21, 2006
|| June 13, 2006
|| July 10, 2006
• Fastest 7 Summiteer in the world (172 days)
• Only Person in the world to map 7 summits to seven week days and consecutive calendar months
Only South Asian to accomplish 7 Summits
• 1st Indian to accomplish 7 summits
• 1st Indian to summit Mt.Vinson the tallest peak of Antarctica
• 1st Indian to summit Mt.Carstensz Pyramid, the tallest peak of Oceania
1st Person from Andhra and 3rd from South India to summit Everest
• Received “Outstanding Youth Award” from Senator John Kerry (US Presidential candidate 2004)
• Conferred the Title “Pride of India” by Indian American Friendship council (IAFC) at Dallas
• He was felicitated in US by several Indian associations.
• Felicitated at IIM Calcutta on Sept 19, 2006