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 Abbottabad, Selena Khawaja, in her first detailed interview, told Gulf News she has a special love for scaling peaks. The nine-year-old said she had felt "great" reaching the summit on February 21.
Selena was accompanied by her father, Yousaf Khawaja, expedition guide Wazir Baig, porter Arif Baig and other team members during the expedition. It took them more than 10 days to summit Quz Sar, of which seven were dedicated to the hike.
Recalling a testing experience from her latest triumph, Selena recalled: "At 5,000 metres, I felt slight altitude sickness but my training and the support of my father helped me overcome it soon."
Selena who has been titled the "Mountain Princess" by Pakistan's mountaineering community, has now set her sights on three more peaks: Mingling Sar (6,050 metres), followed by Spantik Peak (7,027 metres) and then Broad Peak (8,051 metres), the 12th highest mountain in the world.
"I aim to climb all these peaks this year," Selena said with great determination.
A fifth-grader with a passion for outdoor activities, she started training at the age of eight in the mountains of Miranjani and Makra.
"I have scaled Miranjani at least 45 times. It is nearly 3,000 metres high," the nine-year-old recalled. "I have summited the 4,000-metre Makra Peak around 3 times," she added.
While the mountaineering community has welcomed the feat, some have raised concerns about the safety of children at such altitudes. However, Selena's father, a fitness trainer, believes he has trained his daughter sufficiently. He also takes special care of her diet.
"At age nine, she is way more fit than a casual 20-year-old," he said.
In 2019, when she will be 10, Selena aims to become the youngest girl to conquer Everest. Through her exploits, she wishes to inspire young kids to "aim high, work hard and achieve your goals."