The Weekend Leader - Boy at peak

Watching the sun rising below could be a great moment

Roohi Saluja Sehgal   |   New Delhi


Vol 1 | Issue 16

For Arjun Vajpai everything has been uncertain. Within hours after the 16-year-old lad set the record to be the youngest person in the world to climb the Everest on May 22, 2010, a 13-year-old boy from the US, Jordan Romero, stepped on to the summit. But there is nothing to beat the spirit of this young Indian adventurer, who says: “Since India is more populated than the US, I had a larger crowd waiting for me back home.”

“As I reached the summit, I knelt down to the statue of Buddha, placed by the Sherpas. When I looked around, the sun was below me rising from the valley beneath. In an instant, the snow-clad mountains turned gold, as if rejoicing my victory. I felt like the king of the world,” he recalls the moment of glory.

As Arjun Vajpai touched the peak, he was treated to a splendid sunrise – when in an instant, the snow-clad mountains turned gold, as if rejoicing his victory. “I felt like the king of the world,” Arjun told The Weekend Leader. 

But it was the climb that was adventurous, which has been brought out in his book, ‘On Top of the World: My Everest Adventure’, co-authored by Anu Kumar, and published by Penguin. The book documents a story of an impossible dream and the passion to chase and achieve it.

For the young adventurer, though standing atop a peak at a height of 8,848 metres above sea level was a moment to cherish, his experience in overcoming the bouts of doubt and fear that gripped him during the climb were indeed his winning moments.

Arjun’s tryst with the mountains began at the age of 10 when he took on fun treks with his father’s friend, Colonel Jodh Singh Dhillon, who incidentally has the distinction of climbing the Mount Everest thrice. Five years later, he enrolled himself with the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi, for a mountaineering course. “Besides ice and snow craft lessons, I was exposed to varying altitudes to acclimatise my body to fluctuating weather conditions,” recalls Arjun.

As he set out on his expedition, he joined hands with a 10-member-international group at the Everest base camp in Nepal. Each took on their journey up the Everest highway escorted by a Sherpa, and headed by the legendary Apa Sherpa. At first look, one might think that the guards are too many to fall apart. But as Arjun philosophically says: “It’s the mountain that decides who goes up, and who goes down.”

He recounts one near-death experience at the Lhotse passage. “On my way back, I was still over 8000 meters above sea level. Having cut past strong winds, severe cold waves, and trekking for a continuous 19 hours, I was in a trance. Before I could realise what was happening to me, I found myself hanging to an unfinished rope at the end of a cliff with a deep crevasse below. I had caught on to a wrong rope.” Arjun was rescued 30 minutes later by one of the escort sherpas.

But death lurks at every turn of the Everest highway. With hurricane winds racing to almost 200 miles per hour, severe oxygen scarcity, and temperatures dipping to -30C, you will find close to impossible trekking conditions. “One could see semi-decomposed bodies and barren wastelands with no sign of life, growth or vegetation.” The only thing Arjun reminded himself was not to lose focus.

Next, he plans to set out for the North Pole around March, followed by an expedition to the South Pole - all in a bid to become the youngest ‘climber’ to cover the ‘three poles’.

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