7-Year-Old Indonesian Turns Mountains Into Molehills

Indonesian mountaineer Arya Sugiarto, aged 7, has his sights set on major peaks in Europe and the Himalayas. (Photo courtesy of Arya Cahaya Mulya Sugiarto)

Little Arya Cahaya Mulya Sugiarto could be one of the bravest 7-year-olds in the world.

He has already climbed 14 mountains and is now ready to climb more of the world’s highest peaks. To mark National Children’s Day on July 23, Arya will attempt to conquer the highest mountain in Europe, Russia’s Mount Elbrus. From there, he will go on to climb an even higher peak in the Himalayas to mark Universal Children’s Day on Nov. 20.

The young adventurer from Pemekasan, Madura, East Java has impressed mountain climbers worldwide with his feats and even sparked the interest of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. When he reaches the peak of Mount Elbrus on National Children’s Day, Arya will receive a call from the president to congratulate him on his achievements and commend him for inspiring the children of Indonesia to follow their dreams.

Reaching the peak of Elbrus is only the start of Arya’s adventures this year. In November he will attempt to climb Imja Tse, better known as Island Peak, a 6,189-meter peak in the Himalayas.

The first expedition, Ekspedisi Cahaya Indonesia (Light Expedition Indonesia), was developed by mountain-climbing instructor Budi Cayono to help Arya become the youngest person to ever conquer Mount Elbrus.

Budi said that Arya’s achievements encourage other children to get involved in sports and enjoy the outdoors. Arya’s father, Agus Sugiarto, said it is important for children to fulfill their dreams, and he hopes that “Arya’s dream comes true, to climb up this snowy mountain.”

First celebrated globally in 1953, Universal Children’s Day was established to promote children’s welfare worldwide and their contributions to society. By conquering Mount Elbus and Imja Tse, Arya hopes to set an example for children of all walks of life.

Arya’s little footprints have made their impression on many a mountain; he has been hiking since before he could walk. His father, Agus, said he used to carry him on mountain climbs when he was just 8 months old. But it was not long before Arya found his feet: “He was only 3 years old when he started to hike by himself and didn’t want to be carried anymore.”

In fact, Arya has climbed 14 tall mountains in Indonesia, the highest of them being Mount Semeru in Java in August 2010 when he was just 5, and then Mount Rinjani in Lombok last year.

He is the youngest person ever to conquer those mountains, and Agus said that these were the hardest mountains so far. But the treacherous peaks do not seem to faze Arya — last year the boy told the tabloid magazine Nyata that it was “nice to be able to reach the top of the mountain; I can see God’s creation.”

Mount Elbrus will be Arya’s hardest climb to date. Reaching heights of 5,642 meters, the icecap of Mount Elbrus feeds 22 glaciers. The inactive volcano is considered the world’s 10th most prominent mountain.

The highest mountain in Europe would certainly be a risk and a challenge to the most competent of mountain climbers. Yet Agus insists that Arya is in no danger.

“Mount Elbrus is safe enough for a kid his age to climb. The important thing is to always be careful, take notice and pay attention to weather conditions,” he says.

Budi, Arya’s instructor, will lead the expedition to Mount Elbrus and has trained Arya in preparation for the climb.

“I have full confidence that Arya can reach the top of Mount Elbrus on National Children’s Day,” he said. “I have seen him climb Rinjani and he was so happy doing it all the way to the top.”

“If you watch the way he climbs the mountains, you will be amazed, because Arya walks so excitedly,” he added. “Even if it is raining heavily and the terrain is slippery, he still carries on and enjoys the journey.”

Arya and his mountain-climbing team, which includes instructor Budi, father Agus, and a team of experienced climbers, will depart for Moscow on July 9. There they will meet a team of local guides and start their climb at the base of Mount Elbrus on July 15.

After reaching the summit and speaking to the president, Arya will begin his descent and arrive at the base camp on July 26.

To prepare for this ambitious expedition, Arya has undergone daily training. He runs every afternoon and goes mountain climbing every weekend. Budi insists that the mountain is safe to climb, as long as Arya is prepared.

“Mountain climbing is very safe, as long as climbers follow the rules and techniques — especially for young climbers — so they need a lot of preparation,” he says.

Budi says July’s expedition will take longer than it would for more experienced climbers, but believes safety comes before speed.

“Arya requires a longer adjustment [than adults], and his safety is the most important thing,” he said.

Fully aware of the risks, Arya knows how important safety is after coming into trouble while mountain climbing last year. The expedition, Ekspedisi Cahaya Merdeka (Independent Light Expedition) saw him conquer 12 mountains in only three months.

Yet some of the climbs were hindered by stormy weather. The climbers experienced heavy rainstorms and were forced to take shelter in their tents.

The rain prevented Arya from sticking to his original plans, yet Budi said Arya stayed strong.

“He was still fit and in a good condition when he completed the journey,” Budi said.

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