Six years ago when he started trekking in Pune at the age of 10, Arjun Bajpayee could not have imagined that his passion for adventure would lead him to the top of Mt Everest.
The 16-year-old student of Ryan International School in Noida followed his dreams and became the youngest Indian to scale the world’s highest peak on May 22 this year.
Most mountaineers would consider it the peak of their achievements, but Arjun’s journey has just begun. His immediate goal is to clear the Class XII boards and then the mountains and records beckon again.
“I want to scale all 14 peaks above 8000 metres, the seven highest peaks in all continents and reach South Pole and North Pole,” he told HT. And judging by his determination, all of them seem within reach.
Not many would know that the tall teen with long hair is a district level soccer player, a national level basketball and volleyball player and a black belt in taekwondo and karate.
Arjun’s interest in mountaineering began after hearing tales from Jot Singh Dhillion, his father’s friend who scaled Everest thrice. Reinhold Messner, the Italian considered the greatest mountaineer of all times, also inspires him.
What makes Arjun’s feat remarkable is that he had not scaled any 8000 metre plus peak before attempting Everest. He had earlier scaled Island Peak (6189 metre) after training at Nehru Institute of Mountaineering in Uttarkashi.
Although he had the support of an international team, the Everest expedition was not easy. He braved breathing problems, backaches and was saved from near death by his Sherpa companion when his oxygen pipe froze.
“But one has to be motivated to keep going. I kept talking to myself and took one step at a time to reach the peak,” he told students at Kendriya Vidyalaya, Kathmandu on Saturday during a felicitation programme.
Arjun’s is looking forward to sleeping on at his Noida home. But after he fulfils his mountaineering goals, he wants to join the Indian Army and serve the country his like father, a retired Army officer.
His mother, Priya, is however worried more about bringing India’s newest adventure sport hero back to ‘ground’ and reality so that he does well in next year’s board exams.
“None of us are into mountaineering, but we encouraged him to pursue his dream,” she said.
The family including Arjun’s elder sister would return to New Delhi on Monday.