Update on the Antarctica Climb: She made it.

With a crew of five in temperatures that hit 35-below zero, Poorna Malavath trekked 10 days to reach the tallest peak in Antarctica on December 26, waving a Minnesota State Mankato flag at the summit of Vinson Massif.

It was her fifth summit on mountains that include Everest and Kilimanjaro.

“It was teamwork,” she said in the Centennial Student Union’s Hearth Lounge afterward. “If one member had to turn back, we all had to turn back. We had a good team, they’re really good climbers.”

The cold air was the biggest obstacle, she said. Next was the steepness. 

Student Poorna Malavath at the peak of Mt. Vinson in Antarctica December 26.
Attending the University for the 2019-2020 school year, Poorna Malavath spent winter break climbing the tallest peak in the Antarctica – her sixth such climb around the world.

“The first day, it’s kind of OK,” she said. “But from the second day, low camp to high camp, high camp to summit, it’s really steep. Steep like a wall.” One stretch involved seven hours using jumari equipment—or ascenders—to climb 700 meters.

“It’s completely steep. It’s hard. And a long day, also,” she said.

Her mountaineering life—she calls it an addiction—is rooted in a desire to grab at any opportunity to try something new. And new didn’t come easy in her rural village of Bakala in the state of Telangana, India.

“We don’t have buses or shops. Even for a matchbox we have to walk seven kilometers because there are no facilities. We have to walk seven kilometers to buy anything. Anything.”

As a public-school student, her enthusiasm for athletics was noted by teachers, who selected her for various programs that allowed her to explore new adventures—one of which was rock-climbing. That led to being selected to participate in actual climbing and ultimately becoming one of two students selected to climb Mount Everest.

She was 13 at the time and remains the youngest woman ever to climb Everest. That climb was the subject of a 2017 film, “Poorna,” which was produced in India and is available to stream on Amazon.

I was in the heavens—I shed joyful tears,” she said. “It’s an amazing experience after a lot of hard work. I really feel like I did something. It’s an amazing feeling I cannot express in words.”

When she finishes her year at the University taking courses in English and experiential education, she plans to return to India and become a police officer.

To commemorate her year studying at the University, she brought to Vinson Massif a Maverick flag signed by President Richard Davenport.

Malavath made the gesture to celebrate her opportunity to study in the U.S., she said.

“I never expected in my life I’d come to the U.S. and be educated here, she said in Centennial Student Union a few days before the climb. “It was a great experience making friends international-wide. I just want to thank them like this.”

This story originally appeared in Maverick Nation, the online magazine for young Minnesota State Mankato alumni.