(June 2, 2022) Snowed in for seventy-two hours at 7,000 metres, Arjun Vajpai lost sensation in the left side of his body. His Sherpas had long since abandoned the teenager – his first attempt to scale Mount Cho Oyu in Nepal in 2012 had resulted in catastrophe. Arjun is no ordinary kid, however two years prior, in 2010, he had achieved the ultimate mountaineering feat – scaling Mount Everest – and becoming the youngest Indian ever to do so. In 2011, he became the youngest person to climb Lhotse and the youngest mountaineer to scale Mount Manaslu.
No stranger to adversity, therefore, Arjun began the agonising descent from Mount Cho Oyu, crawling for 17 hours using only his right arm and leg. He even returned in 2016 and this time, he conquered the peak. Now 28-years-old, Arjun holds the title for being the world’s youngest mountaineer to summit six out of the total 14 highest mountains of the world. Global Indian takes a look at the ace mountaineer’s journey. Born to Col. Sanjeev Vajpai and Priya Vajpai in 1993, Arjun’s fascination for trekking and mountaineering goes back to his childhood. He started young and began training at the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering, Uttarkashi.
More than a record
Arjun loves what he does – climbing mountains. Records, he says, aren’t endgame. “it makes me feel super happy but I’m not someone who chases records,” Arjun said in an interview with Travel & Leisure magazine. “It’s a moment of pride, not just for me but for the country, to hold a title and each time motivates me to climb more and take India’s flag to some of the highest peaks on earth. I want to be the youngest in the world to do all 14 peaks above 8,000 metres.”
Every expedition takes meticulous planning. Arjun begins by trying to visualise the route from the archives, learning about the mountain and reading about how previous trekkers have scaled it. “I also make a mental note of how many ropes we are likely to require as it helps me get a feel of the mountain mentally,” he said, during the same interview.
The young mountaineer recently faced a setback when he had to turn around 150 metres below the summit of Mount Annapurna 1 due to frost bite in both feet. In one of his Instagram posts, Arjun promises to conquer the mountain next season. “I’m safe and down at Pokhara today. Feet still hurt a little but the summit still echoes in my heart so close,” he wrote.
Interestingly, the youngster also started Arjun Vajpai Outdoor Academy with a mission to inculcate adventure sports in young kids and to keep them healthy and fit. During a media interaction, Arjun had shared that with the inclusion of sport climbing or wall climbing in the Olympics, his academy wants to give a platform for children to take it up as a sport. They also installed over 200 walls across various schools and colleges in India. His love of mountains prompted him to start a cozy, red-roofed homestay – Vaikunth Home in Almora.