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Video: Pakistan’s ‘mountain princess’ scales 5,000-metre peak

9-year-old Selena Khawaja becomes youngest to climb Quz Sar Peak in Shimshal Valley

Image Credit: Courtesy: Selena Khwaja
Selena Khawaja with her father Yousaf Khawaja at the top of the 5,000-metre-high Quz Sar peak.
Gulf News

Islamabad: A 9-year-old Pakistani girl has become the youngest to climb the 5,765-metre-high Quz Sar Peak in Shimshal Valley located in the north of Pakistan.

Selena Khawaja has told Gulf News in her first detailed interview that she has a special love for peaks as she lives in the mountain city of Abbottabad. Selena said she felt “great” on reaching the summit on 21 February 2018. “The view from the top of mountain is very beautiful.”

Delighted at her achievement, Selena has now set her eyes on three peaks: Mingling Sar (6,050 metres), followed by Spantik Peak (7,027 metres) and then the Broad Peak (8,051 metres) which is the 12th highest mountain in the world. “I aim to climb all these peaks this year,” said a confident Selena.

But she has bigger ambitions already. In 2019, she plans to attempt her dream peak, the 8,848-metre high Mount Everest. “I will aim for the world’s tallest mountain in 2019 to become the youngest girl to reach the top of Mount Everest” she told Gulf News.

Selena is a student of grade 5 at Talking Heads International School with a passion for outdoor activities.

Encouraged by her parents and her teachers, she started physical training at the age of 8 in the mountains of Miranjani and Makra. “I have scaled Miranjani at least 45 times and it is nearly 3,000 metres high,” she rejoiced. “And summited the 4,000-metre Makra Peak around 3 times.”

On her latest triumph, Selena was accompanied by her father Yousaf Khawaja and expedition guide Wazir Baig, porter Arif Baig and other team members. The expedition took more than 10 days, out of which 7 were wholly dedicated to the hike.

Sharing one of the fearful experiences of the Quz Sar journey, Selena told: “At 5,000 metres, I felt slight altitude sickness but my training and the support of my father helped me overcome it soon.”

Selena’s father, Yousaf Khawaja, is in fact her mentor and mountain guide who prepared her for the climb. “When she started climbing at the age of 8, I sensed improvement in her activity within a month. In less than one year, she was able to do Miranjani round trip in half the time.”

Both daughter and father are inspired by Pakistan’s sports legend and political leader Imran Khan. “Aim so high that your goal seems impossible then work hard and achieve your goal — these words of Imran Khan motivate me and Selena to aim for Mount Everest,” he shared in an interview.

“Mount Everest was an impossible dream for an 8-year-old kid, but now we are on our way to achieve the goal within two years and will attempt it in 2019.”

In 2019, when she would be 10, she aims to summit Mount Everest to claim the title of the world’s youngest Everest climber. An Indian girl Malavath Poorna ascended the mighty Everest peak in 2010 when she was 13 years old.

Pakistan’s mountaineer community has warmly welcomed the feat and christened her the “Mountain Princess.” A climber, Umar Hassan said, “This young kid has made Pakistan so proud. We should appreciate and support her as she aims to climb Mount Everest and bring the title home.”

Meanwhile, some people raised concerns about safety of kids at elevation. “High altitude climbing in winter season can be dangerous for young kids. We should ensure the kids’ safety first,” pointed out Danial Khan.

However, Selena’s father, a fitness trainer, believes he has trained her daughter physically and takes special care of her diet, which is full of vitamins and minerals. “At the age 9, she is way more fit than a casual 20-year-old,” he claims.

With her summits, Selena wishes to inspire young kids to, “Aim high, work hard and achieve your goals.”