Most nine-year-olds would find it difficult to even put a finger on Mount Kilimanjaro on a map, but not Advait Bhartia, who recently scaled the the highest free-standing mountain in the world. Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, at 19,341 feet above sea level, is also the highest in Africa.
Fondly called 'Simbum ToTo' (Little Simba), Advait reached the top of mountain on July 31, under the supervision of his expedition leader Samir Patham.
To successfully accomplish the hike, the nine-year-old from Pune took the most recommended Machame route that begins at the southern base of the mountain.
Advait, who also successfully trekked to the Everest base camp as a boy of six in 2016, finished the summit in seven days. "This trek was really difficult but fun at the same time. When I was summitting (sic) the Everest Base Camp, we were living in wooden houses but during the Kilimanjaro trek, we stayed in tents and it was a good experience being exposed to snow and the surroundings.
"I could have completed the trek faster but the mountains were very beautiful and I took a lot of breaks to take in the beauty," Advait, who has Europe's highest peak Mount Elbrus on his bucket list for next year, said.
He added that thin air, reducing atmospheric oxygen by approximately 50 per cent, and sub-zero temperatures ranging between minus 21 and 25 degrees celsius at higher altitudes were some of the challenges he braved during his expedition. According to his mother Payal Bhartia, Advait underwent stringent training over a period of two months to gear up for the climb.
"His routine included swimming for an hour, cardiovascular training like playing football, cricket and tennis in the second hour and climbing 100 floors and practising Parkour (military obstacle training) was a regular part of the training during the third hour," she added.
Payal, who accompanied her son during the hike, had to cut short her journey by 1000 ft on the way up as she was unable to acclimatise to the increasing altitude.
"I am very proud of Advait and his dedication towards completing this trek. On the last day, Advait got emotional and he individually thanked the porters, the tent pitchers and the catering team for all their efforts," she said. The trek was organized by Pune-based adventure and trekking company Adventure Pulse.