*SHIMSAL:* A nine-year-old Pakistani girl has become the youngest to scale the 5,765-metre-high Quz Sar Peak in Shimshal Valley, Hunza.
Hailing from the hilly city of Abbottabad, Selena Khawaja in her first detailed interview with Gulf News said that she has always had a special love for peaks and that she felt “great” when she summitted the peak on February 21.
“The view from the top of the mountain is very beautiful,” Selena commented.
Selena was accompanied by her father Yousaf Khawaja, expedition guide Wazir Baig, porter Arif Baig and other team members on the expedition which took them more than 10 days, seven of which were dedicated to the hike.
However, the trek was not a smooth sailing for the young girl dubbed, the ‘Mountain Princess’ by Pakistan’s mountaineer community as she recalled that, “At 5,000 metres, I felt slight altitude sickness but my training and the support of my father helped me overcome it soon.”
Following this triumph, Selena now has her eyes on three peaks: Mingling Sar (6,050 metres), Spantik Peak (7,027 metres) and the Broad Peak (8,051 metres) which is the 12th highest mountain in the world.
“I aim to climb all these peaks this year,” Selena said.
Moreso, the young girl also aims to “become the youngest girl to reach the top of Mount Everest,” a feat she intends to undertake next year. An Indian girl Malavath Poorna ascended the Everest peak in 2010 when she was 13.
The student of grade five at Talking Heads International School with a passion for outdoor activities, Selena started physical training at the age of eight in the mountains of Miranjani and Makra. “I have scaled Miranjani at least 45 times and it is nearly 3,000 metres high,” the nine-year-old said. “And summited the 4,000-metre Makra Peak around 3 times,” she added.
Selena and her father are inspired by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan. “Aim so high that your goal seems impossible then work hard and achieve your goal — these words of Imran Khan motivate Selena and I to aim for Mount Everest,” her father shared in an interview.
“Mount Everest was an impossible dream for an 8-year-old kid, but now we are on our way to achieving the goal within two years and will attempt it in 2019,” he added.
While the mountaineering community has welcomed the feat, others have raised concerns about the safety of kids at such altitudes. However, Selena’s father, a fitness trainer, believes he has trained his daughter physically and takes special care of her diet. “At age nine, she is fitter than a casual 20-year-old,” he remarked.
Selena through her summits, wishes to inspire young kids to, “Aim high, work hard and achieve your goals.”