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No Mountain was Too High to Climb for this Daring Indian Mountaineer

No Mountain was Too High to Climb for this Daring Indian Mountaineer

The famous mountaineer Malli Mastan Babu, who climbed some of the highest peaks in the world, died at the young age of 40. Here's our tribute to this brave man.

The famous mountaineer Malli Mastan Babu, who climbed some of the highest peaks in the world, died at the young age of 40. This is our tribute to the brave man. 

“People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.”
– Sir Edmund Hillary, legendary mountaineer

This is precisely what Indian mountaineer, Malli Mastan Babu, did in his short climbing career.

Mastan Babu died on March 24, 2015 in the Andes Mountains, while he was descending after summiting “Tres Cruces Sur”. He was just 40. Too young an age to leave this world.

Malli Mastan has been on various adventurous journeys.
Malli Mastan had been on various adventurous journeys.

His list of achievements were as tall as the mountains he climbed, which, of course, included the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest.

“Challenge is what enthralls me and free spirit is what I exhibit. ‘Never Give Up, Never Give In’ is a phrase that works miracles for me. ‘Courage and Conviction’ have been a way of expression of myself.” -Malli Mastan Babu

Early Life, Education And Academic Achievements

Named after a local saint ‘Mastan Swamy’, Malli Mastan Babu was born on September 3, 1974 at Gandhi Jana Sangam Village of Sangam mandal, Nellore district, Andhra Pradesh. He did his early schooling at the Sainik Schook in Korukonda, and went on to obtain his B.E. in Electrical Engineering from NIT Jamshedpur in 1996. He then graduated with an M.Tech from IIT Kharagpur in 1998.

After a short stint with Satyam Computers, Malli joined IIM Calcutta, from where he graduated with a Post Graduate Diploma in Management in 2004. For his outstanding contribution in enriching campus life at IIM C, Malli was conferred the Dr. B C Roy award.

When he was in school he was in the merit list in the National Level Science Talent Search Exam in 1991 and also won the best swimmer award in 1992. However, it was in NIT Jamshedpur that young Malli Mastan Babu began to show early signs of athletic ability; he won the first race of his life – the 6.5 km marathon run conducted by the Engineers Adventure Club.

During his two year term at IIM Calcutta, Malli excelled both in academics and sports. He received the Best Volleyball Player, the Dr. B C Roy award, and founded the IIM C Adventure Club in 2003.

The Journey

Malli Mastan Babu on one of the many peaks he has climbed

It is said that all of us have an inner calling to which we are eventually drawn. In Malli’s case, the statue in his school of Lt. M. Uday Bhaskar Rao, a former student, who died during the Indian Army’s Everest Expedition in 1985, was to become the trigger for his lifelong journey into mountaineering.

As they say, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”. So began Malli Mastan Babu’s mountaineering journey sometime in 2004. In a climbing career spanning 11 years or, to be precise, 4105 days, Malli Mastan Babu achieved what not many Indian mountaineers had achieved so far. All mountaineers dream of climbing all the mountains in the world. As even the hardiest and the most experienced of mountaineers will tell you, mountain climbing is not for the faint hearted. You have to be at the peak of your physical condition, you have to have extraordinary mental stamina, and you require that something special in you to want to climb. Malli Mastan Babu, had that something special.

Malli’s Record Breaking Climbs: Against All Odds

Atop Summit of Aconcagua.
Atop the summit of Aconcagua.

Beginning sometime in 2004 and until his untimely death in 2015, Malli Mastan Babu lived his dream; he summited several of the world’s highest peaks. Among his many achievements, too numerous to enumerate or even encapsulate, here are the three most outstanding ones.

  • The seven summits Malli conquered in 172 days in 2006 is a Guinness Record. He climbed Puncak Jaya (4884m), also known as Carstensz Pyramid, on 28 October 2006. During his record breaking summit summits in 172 days, Malli became the first Indian to summit Mount Vinson Massif in Antarctica.
  • In a high altitude trek in 2008, Malli covered 1100 km in 75 days, covering the region between Mount Everest to Kanchenjunga, climbing all the high passes between them.
  • To map the changes that global warming was causing to the Himalayan glacial topography and to highlight the disastrous effects of global warming on the Himalayan ranges, Malli undertook a 132 days, 2000 km trans-Himalayan expedition.

Not one to rest on his laurels, the ever modest and humble Malli continued to summit peak after peak. Malli added another feather to his cap when he became the first Indian to summit Mount Carstensz Pyramid, the tallest peak of Oceania. The climb he was most proud of was when he summited Mount Everest to become the first person from the state of Andhra Pradesh (where he was born) to do so.

His incredible achievements are unparalleled in the history of mountaineering, for no man has ever traversed into the unknown and uncharted territory of the Himalayan regions. Oxygen deprivation, 40 degrees subzero temperatures, wildest snowstorms, avalanches, extreme fatigue and exhaustion; Malli braved it all.

Initially Malli climbed the mountains with a selected few friends and classmates, he eventually went solo. When asked why he went solo, he is said to have replied, “Because his fellow climbers would not be able to keep pace with him”.

Apparently for Malli, climbing mountains was probably the easiest of things. In his blog, he narrates his trauma, trials and tribulations tackling official apathy. The one quote from the blog which sums it all up – “Then how do we Indians aspire for achieving significant/big? What is it all about – we Indians should dream big/ make our mark in the world? It was a very disappointing and demoralizing experience”.

It was not just mountaineering 24×7 for Malli. In his short stay on planet earth, Malli was an inspiration for hundreds of youngsters who came in contact with him. He was a much sought after motivational speaker around the world, using his real life stories to inspire people. He was also an accomplished yoga exponent, an ambidextrous table tennis player, and he loved to solve the Rubik’s cube puzzle.

Final climb

On one of his many climbs

Climbing solo as he always did, Malli was attempting to climb Cerro Tres Cruces Sur in the Andes. He successfully summited the mountain; with this climb he had summited the ten highest peaks of the Andes.

As he was descending, Malli was engulfed by exceptionally bad weather; he went missing on the 24th of March 2015 and is reported to have died inside his pitched tent on the slopes of Cerro Tres Cruces Sur. His body was recovered on the 3rd of April 2015 after a 10 day search by rescue teams.

Malli belonged to the mountains and this write up is but a small tribute to this ‘outstanding Indian mountaineer’ for whom no mountain was too high to climb.

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About the author: Sharath Ahuja works at the Indian Institute of Science, plays badminton, billiards and snooker and is also an amateur photographer.

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