Saturday, July 13, 2024

Coimbatore’s young wonder conquers Everest Base Camp

Amidst the crisp air of the Himalayas, eight-year-old Yazhini Ramkumar from Coimbatore, and 29-year-old transwoman, A Preethika Yashini, from Chennai, set their sights on a goal: to conquer the Everest Base Camp (EBC). Soon enough, putting plans into action, the duo completed the trek on May 16, with an eight-member team, a brief-cardio vascular training and a gruelling 12-day-long trek to the campsite.

However, they hadn’t fully grasped the profound significance of their accomplishment.

Yazhini Ramkumar and Fredrick Lourdusamy at the Everest Base Camp

Yazhini Ramkumar and Fredrick Lourdusamy at the Everest Base Camp
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

In pursuit of the mission, little did they know that Yazhini could possibly become the youngest person and Preethika the first transgender individual from Tamil Nadu to reach this milestone. “While we only aimed to reach the camp, we did not know that our achievements would be magnified by just a singular adventure,” says Preethika, who says she is also probably the first from the Tamil Nadu Police Department to make the climb.

The credit, however, is directed towards Fredrick Lourdusamy, a seasoned mountaineer from Coimbatore, marking his 50th ascent to EBC over a 30-year career. Lourdusamy, who operates the Mountain Adventure Sports Society in Coimbatore, assembled an eight-member team, an eclectic mix of IT professionals, students, and a retiree. “This is usually considered an odd mix, but I see it as a testament to the enduring relationships I have built through my work in schools and colleges across Tamil Nadu, training students to become mountaineers,” he says.

Notably, several enthusiasts in Coimbatore and other parts of the state eagerly follow his expedition announcements on social media, where he invites interested individuals, even those without prior trekking experience, to join him. “It is this sense of community and camaraderie that fuels these ventures. Yazhini joined because her mother had trekked with me in Himachal Pradesh during her college days. Other team members, including college students from Udumalpet, Tiruppur, and Coimbatore, have been trained in various sessions I’ve conducted over the years,” he explains.

Reflecting on this, Yazhini’s mother emphasised how the previous expeditions she had undertaken with Lourdusamy served as a motivating factor to send her daughter on her own adventure. “I have immense trust in the leader, and through this trek, she now grasps the significance of independence and exploration,” she adds.

Preethika Yashini and Fredrick Lourdusamy at the Everest Base Camp

Preethika Yashini and Fredrick Lourdusamy at the Everest Base Camp
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

The journey, which commenced on May 9, started at Lukla, a quaint town 2,860 metres above sea level in Nepal. From there, the team navigated through pivotal acclimatisation points — Tengboche, Dingboche, Lobuche, Gorakshep, and Pheriche —before reaching their formidable destination at 5,364 meters, around halfway to the summit. These campsites along the route typically involve one or two-day stopovers, during which trekkers receive medication to acclimatise. Despite this support, many still encounter difficulties as they ascend.

Yet, Yazhini’s youthful exuberance challenged this notion, as Lourdusamy found himself inspired by her boundless energy. “Her spirit was contagious. Observing her tackle the rugged terrain with enthusiasm motivated everyone. In all my years as a mountaineer, I’ve never encountered someone with such vitality, even on the easiest trails,” he remarks.

As her teammates cheered her on, Yazhini chimed in, expressing that contrary to what others may think, her journey was fueled by simple pleasures. “The Nepalese momos in Lukla were a delightful source of motivation,” she shares, her excitement palpable during the phone interview from the airport. “Fortunately, I also had the opportunity to celebrate my birthday on May 21 at EBC, creating a memory that will stay with me forever.”

Preethika, on the other hand, viewed the trek through a different lens. For her, reaching EBC was not just a personal milestone but an achievement for the transgender community in Tamil Nadu. “To be at EBC is to reach new heights, quite literally and metaphorically,” she says, adding, “With this, I hope that the community feels empowered to think out of the box and explore roads less taken.”

Her determination was bolstered by rigorous training with the Tamil Nadu Police Department, where she serves as a Sub-Inspector in Chennai. “The training I received was crucial in navigating the harsh conditions of the Himalayas,” she notes.

However, beyond their shared triumphs, they also share a common return to their everyday routines. “After experiencing the mountains, which is typically a once-in-a-lifetime adventure for many busy individuals, returning to our jobs and the sweltering heat awaiting me in Chennai is undoubtedly more daunting than the ascent itself!” remarks Preethika. Meanwhile, for Yazhini, the prospect of recounting endless tales to her friends serves as the next “simple” motivating factor.

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