(August 8, 2023) Stranded under heavy snowfall for a span of seventy-two hours at an altitude of 7,000 meters, Arjun Vajpai experienced a loss of sensation along the left side of his body. Left to his own devices, as his Sherpa guides had already left due to his ill-fated first attempt to conquer Mount Cho Oyu in Nepal back in 2012. The young mountaineer, however, is not your typical teenager.
Just two years prior, in 2010, he had achieved an unparalleled feat in the world of mountaineering – successfully reaching the summit of Mount Everest – thereby becoming the youngest Indian ever to accomplish such a remarkable feat. Further cementing his legacy, the mountaineer went on to claim the title of the youngest individual to conquer Lhotse in 2011, as well as becoming the youngest mountaineer to triumph over Mount Manaslu.
Having faced numerous challenges before, Arjun embarked on the excruciating descent from Mount Cho Oyu, a grueling journey that required him to crawl for 17 hours, relying solely on his right arm and leg. Undeterred by previous setbacks, he made a triumphant return in 2016, conquering the peak he once struggled with. At such a young age, Arjun stands as the world’s youngest mountaineer to have summited six out of the 14 highest mountains worldwide. Global Indian takes an in-depth look into the remarkable journey of this exceptional mountaineer.
The mountaineer was born in 1993 to Col. Sanjeev Vajpai and Priya Vajpai, and his passion for trekking and mountaineering traces back to his early childhood. “I was an athletic kid throughout my school years. You name the sport – volleyball, football, hockey, basketball, shot put, long jump, karate – and I have played it. Very early on in my life, I realised that if I wanted to do something in life, it would be with these set of hands and legs,” the mountaineer said during an interview.
Speaking about his first introduction to the mountains, he shared, “In my sixth grade, I was visiting my grandfather’s house in Pune for summer vacations. We went for a short hike to the Sahyadri Hills. Since it was my first climb, I reached the top and when I saw the sunset, I just asked myself, “If it looks so beautiful here, how beautiful must it look from the highest point on this planet?”
And there was no turning back for the mountaineer after that. He nurtured this interest from a tender age and honed his skills through training at the prestigious Nehru Institute of Mountaineering in Uttarkashi.
More than a record
Arjun’s true passion lies in scaling mountains. For him, records are not the ultimate goal. “It makes me feel super happy but I’m not someone who chases records,” Arjun said in an interview, “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.”
Meticulous planning is the foundation of every expedition for this young mountaineer. He initiates the process by envisioning the route, delving into archives, and immersing himself in learning about the mountain’s intricacies. The mountaineer thoroughly studies the experiences of past trekkers who have conquered the same peak, gathering valuable insights for his own journey. “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.
Recently, the young mountaineer encountered a setback during his expedition on Mount Annapurna 1. Frostbite in both feet forced him to make the difficult decision to turn back, just 150 meters shy of the summit. Undeterred by this challenge, the mountaineer remains resolute and optimistic. In one of his Instagram posts, he pledges to return next season and conquer the mountain with renewed determination. “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.
Adding to his list of accomplishments, the young adventurer, Arjun Vajpai, founded the Arjun Vajpai Outdoor Academy with a noble mission. His aim is to instill a love for adventure sports in young children and promote a healthy and active lifestyle among them. In a media interaction, Arjun expressed his desire to provide a platform for kids to pursue sport climbing or wall climbing as a competitive sport, especially with its inclusion in the Olympics.
Through his academy’s efforts, they have successfully installed over 200 climbing walls in various schools and colleges across India, fostering a culture of athleticism and exploration. Beyond this, Arjun’s profound affection for mountains led him to create a warm and inviting homestay named “Vaikunth Home” in Almora. The cozy, red-roofed retreat serves as a haven for those seeking to immerse themselves in the tranquil beauty of the mountains.