MALLI MASTAN BABU

 

Scaling the highest peaks of the Seven continents in 172 days, is just one of his achievements. Most dedicated Indian Mountaineer with world records under his belt. indianmountaineers.com brings his story for you, in his own words. 

 

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World Records
Fastest 7 Summiteer in the world (172 days, Jan 19 – July 10, 2006)
Only person in the world to do 7summits on seven days of the week and one in each calendar month
Only South Asian to accomplish 7 Summits

Indian Records
1st Indian and only Indian to accomplish 7 Summits
1st Indian to summit Mt. Vinson Massif, the tallest peak of Antarctica
1st Indian to summit Mt. Carstensz Pyramid, the tallest peak of Oceania
1st and only person from Andhra Pradesh to summit Mt. Everest

 

Q: Tell us a little about your childhood and your growing up days?
I was born in a farming family to Malli Mastanaiah and Malli Subbamma in Gandhi Janasangam, a small village on the bank of “River Pinakini” in Nellore District, Andhra Pradesh.
I grewup playing in the wilderness of palm trees, “Jamun trees” and venturing into the hills that were to the west of my village about 6km. My earliest quest to go to a summit was when I was seven years old. I ventured into the hills that looked like great mountain range to collect wood for the local festival called “Bhogi” as part of “Sankranthi”. I got separated from my friends and tried to climb the rock and then climb finding my own route to the top. I think I was led by the curiosity to get into the openness from that dense vegetation and have a view from the top. I was alone then. I soon realized after spending about 45mts struggle that it always appears closer but moves farther each time I reach closer. I gave up after about an hour as it was getting to be dark and I didn’t inform any of my friends about my adventure. I think I still have those same instincts but now I persist more on the mountains.
It’s my father’s vision of sending me to a school that changed my life. I think it’s so obvious that all parents send their kids to the school and make sacrifices but it was special in my case to see the strong passion and vision for a farmer (my father) from a small village and who himself didn’t had no more than primary education till 3rd class.
I learnt how to dream and have goals for life, prioritizing, possessing passion, and living with integrity from him.
My Academic life, teachers, friends, seniors and the world around me reinforced these qualities more in me that I was growing learning these values. It took me many years to arrive at this, but I very happy that I learnt.

Q: Your Higher education and professional qualifications?
B.E. (N.I.T. Jamshedpur), M.Tech (Electronis, I.I.T. Kharagpur) and PGDM (I.I.M. Calcutta)

Q: What prompted you to give up a perfectly set corporate stage and take up climbing full time?
I had acted upon my childhood dream to attempt Mt. Everest summit; I listened to my inner voice and believed that my calling is life around mountains and adventure. Once I saw this vision,and acknowledging my strength of academic and Professional background I thought of choosing to be an entrepreneur and live my passion than taking up a job in somebody else’s “perfectly set corporate world”. I am happy that I listened to my inner voice, made choices, took risk and walked the tough path and endured the difficulties and I must say that I am very lucky to have lived that life as well as to be blessed to have many good friends who supported me and made happen.

Q: Who is your biggest Inspiration?
My inspiration for aspiring to climb Mt Everest had its genesis in the wish to accomplish the dream of my school senior Lt. M. Uday Bhaskar Rao, who lost his life at South Col, 26,000ft on Mt. Everest in 1984 as part of Indian Army expedition where 6 officers lost their lives.I nurtured this dream inside my heart for 20yrs before I finally found the strength and confidence to embark on it alone without much training and mentoring.
As I kept growing with this dream, I kept reading about the Himalayan Adventures through the “Drama in Real Life” section of Reader’s Digest and the mountaineering and Everest books that I could lay my hands on to in the Libraries. Later I came in contact with the famous Legends of Indian Mountaineering and had my “wish” to attempt Everest alive. And as I read and researched more, I learnt about the inspirational and unique feats of Reinhold Messner, Jerzy Kukuczka, Junko Tabei, Eric Shipton, Till Man, Francis Smyth, Norman Hardie, Chris Bonington etc and felt that they led an inspiring life.
Through their lives I saw that even before they ventured into the mountains, they were progressing in their imaginations. They had these visions and beliefs which they wanted to experiment and “live the life” of what their imagination believed in. It was new terrain both mentally and physically for the man to embark into. I liked the philosophy of that kind of life.
As I kept climbing one mountain after the other,- mighty mountain ranges, the peaks, the mountain passes, Mountain Rivers, valleys, floral carpets of alpine meadows, colorful butterflies, the and the cultures and life around these became my inspiration to dream and design one trip after the other. I soon realized how majestic are these mountains and ranges and how limited a lifetime is even to experience a minuscule of that infinite wealth of bliss.
These mountain journeys, taught me contentment that I experience at the “absolute” level and at the same time invoke humility and many lessons for life. I am still learning.

Q: What is it about Mountains and Mountaineering that fascinates you?
I tried to explain to some extent in the above. It’s poetic life that I experience from mountains and mountaineering. I design my projects with aspiration to climb in most exotic and beautiful places. The journeys offer me the opportunity to interact with various cultures and people and most exotic memories etched forever in my heart. It’s also the best way of seeing the world for me.

Q: Your first goal was the Seven Summits, how did you decide on this. Tell us a little.
My first goal was to attempt Mt.Everest summit and I didn’t know about Seven summits challenge initially. So my plan to achieve this was to attend mountaineering courses in India, attempt few peaks in Himalayas and go for Everest after achieving about 3 to 4 yrs of experience. These were my thoughts when I was in IIM Calcutta and analyzing my decision to not sit in the campus placements and go for Everest attempt; I went for Everest Base camp in early April in 2004 so as to see how Mt. Everest looked like and what I chose is really that impossible. I visited three valleys (Gokyo, Khumbu and Chukng), reached the top of the trekking peaks Gokyori, Kala Patar, ChukungRi and Chukung peak in 21 days; When I was returning and stationed in Namche Bazar, I had the opportunity to read the book Seven Summits, written by the people who achieved it for the first time in 1985. They were in their fifties and entrepreneurs and did not have any mountaineering experience but suddenly decided one day that they want to attempt Seven summits. It looked similar to my case and I was excited about this challenge as I felt that none of the Indians must have achieved this as I didn’t come across any Indian attempting this during my reading and research about Indian Mountaineers and their achievements.
I immediately visited a Cyber café which was very new in Namche bazaar then (in 2004) and Googled. I came across the website that maintained the statistics about the Seven summiteers. There were almost 35+ countries including Kwait in the list But NOT India. I felt bit of a discomfort at the Indian Mountaineers disinclination to attempt these.
But I was excited that now I can have a bigger challenge to go for and that my Everest Summit preparation can be planned around these mountains and with each one of these I will gain experience more faster than what I planned earlier – doing mountaineering courses, attempting few Himalayan peaks as if I have to attempt Himalayan peaks, I have to wait for the season that are open only in Himalayas. But when I span my mountaineering peaks around the world, I will have almost all the months for climbing and gaining experience.
That’s how I evolved at choosing to attempt – Seven Summits challenge.

Q: The challenges you faced while achieving the seven summits. How difficult was it to get Sponsorships?
My Seven summits was sponsored by Sainik School Korukonda alumni for most of it, Also my NIT friends and batch mates, IIM C friends and IIT Kharagpur friends helped me to achieve this.
I received part sponsorship from Lanco (Hyd), Sierra Atlantic.

Q: How did it feel when you achieved the Seven summits and became the Fastest Seven Sumitter ever?
It was very satisfying yet it felt like a void and emotionless state as though my life suspended at high altitude and I immediately experience how boring a life will when there is no purpose of when it’s difficult to identify an engaging dream or goal. I think it’s relative to each one of us how intense that “purpose” as well as “how engaging and fulfilling” that dream or goal is.
I began to appreciate life in its existential simple form. I realized how thankful I am for having the whole body together. It taught me humility at the same time it also made me attain more clarity and prioritizing which didn’t help me much in the other “real” world.
I learnt more about mountains and the infiniteness of them.

Q: Tell us more about your climbs and the various experiments you have done while climbing (Like the 5000 mts + passes).
I am fascinated by the travels of mountain passes above 5000m in the Himalayas. I did quite a few and two such long travels that I cherish most are
1. 50 day trek of 4 Dhams traverse: Uttarkashi – Dodital – Darwatop – Yamunotri; Yamunotri – Bali Pass – Ruinsara valley – DhumdharKandi pass – Jhala – Gangotri - KalindiKhal – Ghastoli – Badrinath – Panpatia Glacier – Madhyamaheshwar – Kalimath – Kedarnath.
To my best knowledge nobody has undertaken a journey where anybody has done all of it one go. I was on foot for the entire journey.

2. Passes between Mt. Everest –Khanchenjunga: Renjo la, Kongma la, Mera la, Amphulapchala, west col 6135m, Sherpani col 6110m,ThudamOlangchung Snow pass, Umbak la, Tipti la, YangmaKhangla, Nango la andMarson la, Rathong la,

Q: What is your current climbing project?
Climbing the highest peak in all countries of S.America continent; Summited in 9 countries (Aconcagua – Argentina, Ojos Del Salado – Chile, Huascaran – Peru, Sajama – Bolivia, Chimborazo – Ecuador, Pico Bolivar- Venezuela, Roraima - Guyana, Cerro Treskandu – Paraguay, Cerro Catedral – Uruguay) and 3 (Pico Colon – Colombia, Pico Neblina – Brazil, Juliana Top – Suriname) more to go.

Q: How do you fund your expeditions?
Talks to companies, organizing treks and climbs, sponsorship by companies and individuals

Q: What are your favorite places / Peaks and countries in the world and why?
Himalayas, Argentina, Portland and Russia! Himalayas for the wealth of mountain landscape and the biodiversity; Argentina, Portland and Russia it’s the people factor as well and the ease and friendliness of national parks to visit these places

Q: What is your next set of Adventures?
Climbing in Bolivian Andes; I will share more after I do them.

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- An exclusive interview by indianmountaineers.com