In 2009, 19-year-old Krushnaa Patil became the youngest Indian to summit Mount Everest. This year, the bar has been upped, as 16-year-old Arjun Vajpai tries his luck at replacing Patil for the prestigious title.
Having trained professionally in mountaineering for the last five years, Vajpai, who has just finished his class 11 examinations from Ryans International School, New Delhi, is ready for the 2-month long expedition.
“It is difficult, but it’s challenging. At many stages, even if I feel that I am going to lose, I know I can try again some time later,” says Arjun Vajpai.
The expedition that will start from Kathmandu on March 26 will be a mixed group — two people from Canada, two from the US, one person from Mexico and three from India, excluding him.
But making his journey to Everest possible, was a trek that began long before the training. Struggling to find sponsors for the trip that costs over 30 lakh, Vajpai’s parents had given up on any support from the government and managed to assemble funds through personal sources.
“We tried getting in touch with everyone, but there was no response. We recently got in touch with SAIL also, but have not heard from them yet,” says Priya Vajpai, Arjun’s mother. She continues, “Our friends have been very supportive, which is why we have been able to arrange for the funding. Hopefully, we will get sponsors if he makes it, but if he doesn’t, that might be difficult. What’s important is that he is getting an opportunity to pursue his passion. I’ve told him I want him back. Life is more important than anything else, and there are always second chances. Nothing is more precious than your life.”
Excerpts from the interview with Arjun Vajpai
What do you love most about trekking?
The adventure and the thrill of reaching the peak is something that makes me want to go back again and again. One gets addicted to the view that can’t be captured from any camera.
Are you nervous? It’s a very dangerous trek…
A bit now, because I have been meeting people who have already climbed the Everest.
Which was the last mountain you climbed?
On October 1, 2009, I climbed the Draupadi Ka Danda 2, also called DKD2, a peak in the hills of Garhwal. I also hold the record for the youngest person to summit that peak.
Apart from the training, what do you need to remember for this trip?
The information I get from people who have already climbed Everest. There are many health problems and conditions. I need to know the basic symptoms to be able to take precautions well in time.
What is the next challenge after the Mount Everest?
I would like to go for the Seven Summit trek. They are the seven highest points in all the continents.
Do you want to make mountaineering a profession?
As much as I would like to do this full time, it is a very expensive sport. I am also an Indian Army aspirant. We are still looking for sponsors. We tried contacting Kingfisher and HCL, but no one responded. All said that their funds had already been invested, because it is nearing the end of the financial year.