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‘I always compete with the mountains’

The gruelling training and sacrifices to be a successful mountaineer are worth it, says 18-year-old Arjun Vajpai

education Updated: Jun 15, 2011 09:35 IST
Gauri Kohli

No child’s play
I have always been interested in basketball, football, volleyball and I’m a district-level player in these sports. I have also been a national-level participant in several taekwondo and karate competitions. I was a keen trekker and have been at it since the age of 10. I also took part in several trekking camps while I studied in Ryan International School, Noida.
I came in contact with Colonel Jodh Singh Dhillon, an Army officer, who is also my guide and inspiration. Colonel Dhillon is the principal of the Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering in Gulmarg. I was on a casual trekking trip to the Sahyadri Hills in Maharashtra when I dreamt of climbing the Everest. I enrolled for basic training in mountaineering at the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering in Uttarkashi. Since then, there has been no looking back.

First high
My first big climb came in 2009 when I scaled a peak called DKD-II, which is at a height of 18,892 feet in the Garhwal Himalayas. I pursued advanced training as climbing this peak was a herculean task. I worked extremely hard and was happy when I succeeded. Personally, summiting the Everest is my greatest achievement, one which established me as a world-class mountaineer. I am the youngest Indian to summit the Everest (in May 2010) and became the youngest person ever to have summited Mount Lhotse, which is the fourth highest peak in the world, in May 2011.

Idol talk
Reinold Messnor, an Italian climber, the first person to climb all 148,000m peaks without oxygen solo, is my idol. I hope I can emulate some of his feats one day. Colonel Dhillon has been my guiding force and I look up to him as well.

My success mantra
I believe in following my dream with passion and zeal. I undergo eight hours of rigorous training daily. As I am pursuing a sport which is physically as well as mentally demanding, I follow a strict diet and exercise regime focussing on muscle training. But I take everything slowly and steadily as younger mountaineers like me are more vulnerable to injuries and other related problems. I also spend good time in conditioning myself mentally by practising yoga and meditation. I’m only 18 and see a long career ahead of me. My next aim is to climb the South Pole later this year.

Work-life balance
Since I’m training for most part of the day, I hardly find time for other things but whenever I get time, I hang out with friends and spend time with my family who have supported me through thick and thin. I may be missing out on certain fun moments in life which my friends enjoy but I feel to achieve something, you have make sacrifices. I even urge my friends and youngsters to come out, explore nature and take up adventure sports.

Failure is another teacher
What I’ve learnt most from my failure is time management. Whenever I would get unsatisfactory grades in school, I would learn from my mistakes. I used to plan my tuition classes to cover up my syllabus and take help from my friends and teachers.

Tips for GenY
Never shy away from dreaming big and remember that hard work always pays off. I always compete with myself and with the mountains and that’s what drives me to success.