Nine year-old Sophia Rout has sky-high aspirations.
The Year 4 student from Fr John Therry Primary School Balmain/Rozelle has become the youngest person in the world to reach Mt Everest Base Camp in winter – making the gruelling 120km trek in minus 30 degree temperatures.
Just eight-years old when she completed the ascent of one of the most iconic and well-known treks in the world, she reached heights of 5380m above sea level in just eight days – three shy of the average climb.
Despite biting winds, heavy snow falls and breathing difficulties due to the high altitude, Sophia said the trek was one of the best things she has ever done.
And not content with her latest achievement, she now has Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro firmly in her sights.
Introduced to trekking by her dad Ronnie, the accomplished runner and swimmer said she has wanted to climb to Everest Base Camp for quite a few years and couldn’t believe it when her dad said yes.
“Climbing is something I have always loved and have been asking dad for a long time if I could do with him, he’s done Everest before but he has always said I’m too little,” she smiled.
“I just couldn’t believe it when he said yes, I was so excited and couldn’t wait. I have done some trekking at Mount Kosciuszko but hadn’t really tried anything like this before and it was so much fun.
“There’s something about climbing that just makes me happy although I must admit I really don’t like the cold very much.
“My dad gave me a minus 40 degree sleeping bag so the only time I wasn’t cold was when I was sleeping, the rest of the time I was freezing and my hands and feet were numb. But I didn’t care it was all worth it. Along the way we had a good laugh, we saw some yaks and wild dogs as well as the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen.
“It was very hard and the food we got from the sherpas wasn’t very good but I’m so glad I did it and hope I am an inspiration for other young kids that you can do anything.”
While children have made it to base camp before, their attempts have all been in the warmer months with much more comfortable conditions. Climbing in the harsh Nepalese winter is incredibly tough and demanding particularly for somebody of Sophia’s age.
However Dad Ronnie said he knew what she was capable of and that while it would be challenging she would complete the trek without too much trouble.
He completed the trek a few years earlier and said that while climbing in winter is a lot tougher than other times it is also far more beautiful.
A firefighter by trade, the ex-soldier said he was incredibly proud of his young companion and her achievements on the mountain.
“There was just no stopping her, it’s always been something she has wanted to do with me and I knew she was well prepared and ready for the climb,” he said.
“I have done a number of climbs before and what it boils down to is how mentally tough and determined you are.
“She didn’t complain or whinge at all, she just took it all in her stride and kept going. She was getting up very early, trekking all day and getting to bed late and she loved every minute of it.
“A lot of the sherpas commented on how they had never seen a child her age climb in winter, it really is incredibly tough but she did it.
“It’s something the two of us do together, her mum isn’t really interested in climbing, it’s just our thing I guess.”
Sophia doesn’t know what she wants to do when she gets older but one thing she is sure about; she wants to be the youngest person to not only reach the summit of Mt Everest but to scale the Seven Summits – the highest mountains of each of the seven continents and some of the most challenging climbs in the world.
“I can’t wait to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, I’ve watched lots of YouTube clips of the climb and it looks like fun,” she said.
“I think we’ll do that one at the end of the year and then look for our next challenge.
“I would love to become the youngest person to reach the summit of Mt Everest and while I know it’s a pretty big goal after getting to base camp I know anything is possible.”