Buenos Aires: Thirty-seven-year old Malli Mastan Babu is the only Indian to have scaled the tallest peaks of the Andes in South America. He also holds a Guinness record for having climbed the seven summits of the world in just 172 days.
Babu, who comes from a farming family in Nellore in Andhra Pradesh, has been credited with scaling the Aconcagua in the Argentine side three times. At 6,962 metres, it is the tallest peak outside the Himalayas.
He also climbed the Huascaran (6,768 metres) in Peru, Sajama (6,542 metres) in Bolivia, Chimborazo (6,310 metres) in Ecuador and Ojos del Salado (6,800 metres) in Chile.
No Indian has ever been to most of the places where he has gone.
Babu has spent about nine months in South America in his four trips since 2005, R. Viswanathan, India’s ambassador to Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, said.
He holds a Guinness record for climbing seven summits in 172 days in 2006. This included the Vinson Massif peak (4,887 metres) in Antarctica. This was one of the toughest challenges for him due to the extreme cold.
When Babu went to climb the Cristobal Colon peak in the Sierra Nevada mountain range of Colombia, the local Indians would not allow him to go up. They consider the mountain as sacred and would not let outsiders on top of it.
But Babu did not give up. He told them that he is also an Indian and that the people from India too worship mountain gods. This made the Colombian Indians to relent, Viswanathan said in an email.
Babu’s current trip to the region is to reach the top points of all the 12 countries of South America, including Paraguay and Uruguay.
To reach Pico Neblina, the highest peak in Brazil (3,007 metres), he has to travel by boat in the Amazon river to reach the base of the mountain.
“I asked him how he managed the language problem. He smiled and said, ‘Mountains all
over the world speak the same language’,” the Indian official added.
Babu likes the privacy of his one-to-one dialogue with the summits and treasures this intimate conversation. That is why he prefers to go “solo” in climbing.
Babu, who studied at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Kolkata and MTech in Electronics from IIT Kharagpur, has given lectures on leadership at companies like GE, Intel, John Deere, and in management schools in the US, UAE, Kenya and India.
Babu has learnt Spanish and already made many friends in South America. He feels at home and happier in their company, Viswanathan said.