“Dad was okay, but my mom wasn’t. So I had to convince her that crossing Delhi roads are far more challenging than scaling Mount Everest.” That’s how 18-year-old Arjun Vajpai described his parents’ stand before he set off to conquer the world’s highest peak at 16 in 2010.
In 2011, of course, there was no opposition ahead of scaling Mt Lhotse. At 8,516 metres, it’s the fourth highest peak on Earth, and Arjun was again the youngest Indian flag bearer there.
The year ahead will see this boy becoming a man. “I’ll be on my 14-challenge (there are 14 peaks above 8000metres) journey, covering at least three more summits,” says Arjun. But he’s cautious and knows his limitations. “The Annapurna 1, Nanga Parbat and Mt K2 are most feared peaks to scale. But I’ll need at least two-three years more to be physically that strong,”says the Noida-boy. “I train in the gym for six hours now, which I’ll increase to over 8 hours.”
2011 Mt Lhotse 8,516m
2011 Mt Manaslu 8,163m
That Arjun is capable of pulling through the extreme physical and mental endurance is evident from the words of his mentor. “It’s more about determination to push yourself to brink that matters in mountaineering, and this boy has a lot of potential,” said Colonel Jodh Singh Dhillon, principal of the Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering, Gulmarg.
Arjun admits that there are times when both mind and body are on the verge of a breakdown. “But that’s the challenge,” he adds.
“This isn’t cricket or football where you get the next match to correct yourself. A wrong step here, and there’ll never be another chance.” So what motivates him in a sport where a ‘win’ doesn’t meet applauds, but breathlessness and loneliness at the end? “Not everyday do you find the sun rising from below where you are standing,” he says. “It’s a billion dollar experience, and comparable to nothing else in the world.”
*Will be ski-hiking 1170kms to the North Pole.
*Arjun has already brought down 52kgs of garbage from his climbs. Will be doing more to clean the mountains this year
*Vajpai is ready for the 14-challenge journey. file