Bhuvan Jai used to tag along with his father on his morning and evening walks in a nearby open ground every day, ever since he was able to take his first steps. At that time, his father, Gandham Chandrudu, did not realise that his son would become one of the youngest people in the world to climb the highest mountain in the European continent, at the age of 8. On Friday, September 24, young Bhuvan returned to India after a successful expedition to the 5,642 metre-high Mount Elbrus in Russia. Waiting for him was his proud father, who joyfully hugged him at the airport.
Bhuvan’s father, Gandham Chandrudu, is a noted IAS officer in Andhra Pradesh, and was best known for his stint as District Collector of Anantapur. Speaking to TNM, Chandrudu said, “When Bhuvan and I used to go to the ground, he used to be very physically active. After a while, he was observed by the sports coach over there, Shankariah of Rural Development Trust (RDT) in Anantapur. Shakaraiah took a personal interest in training Bhuvan and told me that his energy should be used for some extracurricular activities, and introduced mountain climbing to him.”
Since then, Bhuvan was hooked to mountaineering. He was under the able guidance of Shankaraiah, a professional mountaineer who has scaled Mount Kilimanjaro in the past, and has trained other young students as well. In February 2021, Bhuvan began formal technical training at the famed Adventure Sports Academy in Gandikota, in Andhra’s Kadapa district.
But just technical know-how of the sport is not enough to scale mountains, which is a daunting task even for most adults. Bhuvan had to learn how to tolerate extreme cold temperatures and dizzying altitudes as well. For this, Chandrudu says, Bhuvan was taken to Leh-Ladakh in the Himalayas, to see how his body and mind would respond to that kind of environment.
“We were wondering how he would react upon seeing the ice-covered mountains at such great heights. But he was excited and active. Later on, Bhuvan was given more training over there by Shekar Babu, who was also the coach for Telangana’s Poorna Malavath, who became the youngest girl to climb Mount Everest at the age of 13,” he says.
It was this that solidified Bhuvan’s training and made him ready for his own expedition. On September 11, the team left India and reached Russia and reached the Mount Elbrus base camp the next day. And by 8 am on September 18, the tricolour flag was planted at the summit of Mount Elbrus by the youngest person to scale it. The expedition team also consisted of coach Shankaraiah from Anantapur, Anminsh Bhupathi Raju Varma from Visakhapatnam and Naveen Mallesh from Bengaluru.
According to the parents, the real challenge for Bhuvan during the journey was to climb while wearing spike boots, which weighed more than three kg, added to three layers of thick clothing to protect him from the cold. “Just to be on the safe side, the team had also taken an extra oxygen cylinder, but Bhuvan managed to climb without taking any additional oxygen support,” his father says, proudly.
In a video, Bhuvan says after his expedition, “There are many talented children out there, who, if provided the opportunity, can achieve what they want to and hope that such an opportunity is provided to all of them.”