NEW DELHI – The 13-year-old daughter of poor Indian farmers who became the youngest girl to climb Mount Everest said Wednesday that she "shed joyful tears" at the summit after a grueling climb across difficult terrain and personal fear.
Nepal requires climbers to be at least 16 years old to scale its peaks, but Malavath Poorna said she and a team of Nepalese guides climbed the 29,035-foot mountain on May 25 from the northern side in Tibet. There are no age restrictions in China.
"It was very difficult. Every step is a dangerous step," a smiling Poorna told reporters in New Delhi, describing steep slopes, exposed rocks, deep crevasses and extreme cold that went below minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
At 10,830 feet, she said she saw "six dead bodies. I was shocked. Oh my god I got some fear."
But she remembered her training and regained her confidence.
"When I reached the top of Everest, very good experience. I feel great and proud, and I shed joyful tears" as she looked around and saw "mighty mountains and morning sunlight," she said in English, waving her hands expressively as she spoke.
The climb was verified by the China Tibet Mountaineering Association in Lhasa, making Malavath the youngest girl to climb Everest. American Jordan Romero, from Big Bear, California, became the youngest boy at age 13 to reach the summit -- also from the Tibetan side -- in 2010.
Malavath said her parents, impoverished farmers from the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, encouraged her during eight months of training despite the fact that she had never before been on a mountain. Her family are dalits, once known as "untouchables," at the bottom of India's ancient caste system.
The expedition was sponsored by the Andhra Pradesh Social Welfare Residential Educational Institution Society as part of its program to encourage and help underprivileged students in India.