How a record-breaking mountaineer and a NASA scientist ascended an uncharted mountain to earn money for girls’ education

For Poorna Malavath and Kavya Manyapu, exploring the summits of the tallest mountains on Earth or learning the mysteries of space’s most profound mazes has become nearly second nature. It has led Malavath to the pinnacle of Mount Everest in 2014, when she became the youngest woman to ever reach the peak at the age of 13, and Manyapu to NASA, where her research has involved creating space suits. As part of their initiative, Project Shakthi, which raises money to support girls’ education, these two ladies have now turned their sense of exploration into climbing some of the most challenging mountains on Earth. With the intention of utilizing the symbolism of forging a trail both literally and figuratively, they ascended a 6,012-meter virgin mountain in Ladakh, India, at the end of August. This peak had never been charted and had not been visited by human expeditions. The peak had never been climbed before, and even an accomplished climber like Malavath found it challenging because there were no paths to follow or tips from past climbers to rely on.

According to Malavath, “we have to mentally prepare ourselves to accept everything,” CNN Sport reports. “Therefore, it is entirely different and I have so much more knowledge to help others.” Rainy weather that became snowy at high elevations made ascending a virgin summit more difficult. Manyapu tells CNN that “it actually snowed at our high camp the night when we were planning to leave for our summit bit, which meant avalanche conditions on the mountain we wanted to climb that day.””As a team, we had to quickly return, call for safety, and get ready for the next day. Thus, it was really difficult.significantly with her rigorous training, Manyapu was still a relatively inexperienced climber, therefore the challenges were significantly harder for her. “On multiple occasions when we were in the tent together, Poorna and I would discuss hypothetical scenarios such, ‘What if we don’t make it to the summit? How might that happen? Says Manyapu. “However, we would always like to go back and support and inspire one another to just take things one step at a time.”

During their lowest points on the trail, the group found inspiration in Project Shakthi’s mission statement, “We climb so that girls can read,” which is a cause close to both Manyapu and Malavath’s hearts. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Manyapu thought back to her own childhood, when her family immigrated to the US “to help fulfill her dreams” from India. It was then that she recognized she could aid girls who did not have the same support system to access possibilities. “I feel like it’s my duty to make the world at least 1% better for her and her generation because I have a three-year-old daughter,” she continues. Malavath and Manyapu both hail from the same Indian hamlet, but Manyapu and Malavath didn’t actually meet until 2019—that is, until Manyapu became pregnant.

Since 2014, Manyapu adds, “I’ve always been inspired by [Malavath’s] story.” “This is something I want to start an initiative where we could climb for a cause,” I told her over the phone. “Up until now, we have pursued our passions. But what if we used our passions to uplift, educate, and empower impoverished schoolchildren?” Malavath was 13 years old when she set out on her Everest trek and had no idea how widespread injustice was in society. “I learned about that society as I proceeded to climb the highest mountains on each of the seven continents,” she adds. Additionally, a large number of females in rural areas struggle and are denied opportunity. “I never stop thinking about the people in the villages and the pupils who are learning with me. One of my acquaintances was married when she was about 14 or 15 years old, and she now has two school-age children. And my schooling simply ended.”

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