What are the adventures of Poorna Malavath ?

Puja Pednekar

On a whim, a young Poorna Malavath signed up for rock climbing offered by her school when she was almost 12 years old. Before she knew it, she had mastered the art of balancing, bouldering and rappelling. And in 2014, she made history as the youngest girl to ever climb Mount Everest. Subsequently, she became the world’s first tribal woman to set foot on the six tallest mountain peaks across six continents. This is her story.

Malavath is from the remote village of Pakala, where her parents worked in paddy fields. When she was 11, she moved to a residential government-run school in a nearby district. The school had introduced a few extra-curricular programmes to encourage students to attend school. The drop-out rate of girls was quite high in the region.

Malavath’s enthusiasm and skills brought her to the notice of R. S. Praveen Kumar, an Indian Police Service officer and secretary of the Telangana Residential Educational Society, which runs schools for scheduled caste, scheduled tribes and underprivileged children.

Kumar sent Malavath for rock climbing camps to hone her skills. On a five-day camp in Bhongir in Nalgonda district, Malavath scaled the 6,500 feet Bhongir rock with relative ease and dexterity. She seemed to be a natural at finding the right crevices that can act as foot holds on its steep surface. Reaching to the top of the formidable rock, Malavath gained confidence in her mountaineering skills.

Her coach, Sekhar Babu decided to put his faith on the young gun and prepare her alongside another student, S Anand Kumar, 17, for the ultimate mountaineering challenge – Mount Everest. She was sent to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling, where six-months of grueling workouts and rigorous exercises followed. She ran 20 to 25 km every day and rested only one day in a week. But this was just the beginning. As part of her training, she had to scale Mount Renock at 17,000 feet in the Kanchenjunga range in the Himalayas, which was then followed by acclimatization in the mountains around Ladakh, at -35 degrees Celsius.

A momentous feat

Malavath attempted to climb Everest from the Tibetan side because Nepal has a strict age limit of 16 and above. When her team reached the Everest base camp in 2014, they heard that 16 Sherpas were killed in an avalanche. The teeth chattering, icy coldness made her feel sick and weak. Though she ran a fever for a few days and was constantly throwing up, Malavath was not ready to give up. The ice and cold did not scare her. But on her way to the summit, the sight of six dead bodies in Everest’s “death zone” sent shivers down her spine. At 8,000 m, the death zone is the part of Everest where there is not enough oxygen for humans to breath. This is where most of the climbers breathe their last and the area is infamously strewn with corpses. It was the first time she had seen a dead body. Suddenly, a cloud of uncertainty and fear gripped her, but Malavath overcame the rush of emotions and carried on. Within 15 minutes, on May 25, 2014, Malavath and Anand Kumar, reached the summit of Everest.

Her Everest feat inspired Rahul Bose to make a biopic on the young mountaineer titled Poorna. It released in 2016.

Other milestones

Bolstered by her Everest success, Malavath scaled Mt. Kilimanjaro (Africa), Mt. Elbrus (Europe), Mt. Aconcagua (South America) Mt. Cartsnez (Oceania region) and Mt. Vinson Massif (Antarctica). She is close to achieving her goal of scaling the seven tallest summits located in seven continents. She is gearing up to scale Mt. Denali, the highest peak in North America, which is every mountaineer’s dream.

Mountaineering gave Malavath unprecedented opportunities and exposure. It also taught her to dream big. Currently pursuing an under graduate course at the University of Minnesota in the U.S. as a fellow of the Global Undergraduate Exchange Programme, Malavath plans to pursue her postgraduate studies and prepare for the Civil Services exam. Like her mentor, she too wants to become an IPS officer and perhaps, change the lives of other girls in her community.


  • In 2019, Poorna published her biography, Poorna: The Youngest Girl in the World to Scalw Mount Everest.
  • She wanted to become a cricketer, and enjoys playing volleyball and kabaddi too.


Picture Credit : Google