Dubai: Two Dubai-based Indian expatriates — a mother-son duo — have successfully climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest peak in Africa.
Shashwat Mahalanobis, a 14-year-old student of GEMS Modern Academy, scaled the mountain along with his mother, Shobha, a fitness enthusiast. The mother-son duo, who reached the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro on July 8, said the feat was achieved thanks to an intensive physical training regimen that they undertook prior to their climb.
“Reaching the summit of a mountain, especially the tallest peak of Africa, can be a nerve-wracking exercise, even for a skilled mountaineer,” Shashwat said. “This is because of the high altitude, extremely low temperatures, strong winds and lack of oxygen that can make the trek and acclimatisation tremendously challenging. As you inch closer to the top of the peak, the terrain gets unexpectedly perilous and the oxygen level can plummet to a staggering below 50 per cent of what it is at sea level,” he explained.
Undertaking intense physical training
Keeping that in mind, Shashwat and his mother attend three to four hours of personal training sessions a week. Besides, they also practised by scaling UAE’s mountains, carrying a 10kg backpack and specialised mountaineering equipment. “The instructor-led training sessions proved to be particularly helpful in building physiological and psychological strength for ascending to the top of a mountain,” said Shobha.
She added: “Every day, without fail, we would go out for long walks, for 5-7km. My husband used to join us as well and it was really nice because we did this as a family. The walks helped us boost our stamina, build resilience and improve our breathing.”
However, Shashwat went a step ahead and used the treadmill for an hour each day. He also played basketball four days a week.
Pulling all the stops
“Shashwat pulled all the stops in his preparations because he knew that he would have little time to get himself acclimatised to the high elevation once he would land in Tanzania. That is why he trained with intense focus and dogged determination. His self-belief and will-power proved to be his greatest assets on his climb to the highest point in Africa,” said his mother.
And Shashwat is equally proud of his mother’s achievement. “I am so impressed by my mother’s mental and physical strength. We were there for each other and kept pumping each other whenever we were feeling a bit low. This is especially true on the first day. Once we reached the top of Mt Kilimanjaro, it felt surreal. It was a brilliant moment. We felt that all the hard work was worth it.”
Facing challenges up there
For Shashwat, the first day proved to be the most challenging. “The first day, we trekked for ten hours. I almost wanted to quit. On the summit day, we trekked for nearly 14 hours and that was hard. But the breathtaking view all around kept me going. It was such a visual treat!”
What inspired the mother to trek with her son
“From a very young age, my son was fond of outdoor activities and sports. Being a parent and a fitness enthusiast myself, I left no stone unturned to support and encourage him to pursue his dreams. I would go out with him to the jogging tracks and trekking expeditions here in the UAE. I noticed that my son looked up to me for inspiration. That’s why I always wanted to lead by setting a personal example. That’s why we trained for the climb together,” explained Shobha.
Why Kilimanjaro and not Everest
Shobha said: “We chose Mt Kilimanjaro as our first challenge because we wanted this success to become a stepping stone for our future expeditions. Now that we have reached the summit of the tallest peak in Africa, in the next six months or so, we will achieve our dream. We will practise to bolster our skills, strength and stamina to take on the tallest mountain in the world — Everest.”
Bubbling with optimism
After the success with Mt Kilimanjaro, Shashwat is now bubbling with optimism and self-confidence. “I am now ready to dream big,” said Shashwat who wants to pursue artificial intelligence (AI) as his future academic pursuit. He is a Python specialist — a widely used tool by AI developers. Besides, he has 11 certifications in Data Science, Machine Learning and AI to his name. Shashwat also plays the guitar.
No mountain too high
“I hope more students from the UAE attempt to scale mountain peaks. It would set a whole new trend. I felt special being up there. It is a great feeling. It felt even better being up there with my mother,” he added.