As a child he would dream of conquering Mount Everest. But when 16-year-old Arjun Vajpayee was close to realising his dream, he found himself pitted against insurmountable odds.
The youngest Indian to climb Mt. Everest is overjoyed but hasn't become complacent as he has set his eyes on achieving other goals. "During the climb to Mt. Everest, I started talking to myself. Every step seemed like eternity, I was gasping for breath as the oxygen in my cylinder had decreased. But I didn't allow negative thoughts to dissuade me from going ahead. On reaching the summit, I felt like a king and got a bird's eye view of other smaller peaks. My first thought was of my parents, especially my mother, who was quite worried," said a gleaming Arjun, who is a Class XII student of Ryan International School, Noida.
What added to Arjun's discomfort were the heavy-duty mountaineering boots and rucksack. "My parents warned me not to go ahead with the ascent if I found the climb a daunting proposition. Luckily, I was mentally prepared for all kinds of eventualities like crevasses, blizzards and other obstacles."
Col. Jyot Singh Dhillon, who has the distinction of climbing Mt. Everest thrice, was the young lad's motivational guru. He familiarised Arjun by narrating his own expeditions. "After listening to his stories, I would mentally conjure how I would have reacted to certain difficult situations," said Arjun.
Arjun, who has had a fascination for trekking and mountaineering since childhood, said it was indeed a proud moment for him to get felicitated, autographed and photographed by his school mates. "Now I want to go to the North and South Poles; it will be like a mini grand slam for me. Eventually my ambition is to climb world's seven highest peaks. Professionally I want to join the Army," said this Commerce student, who is also giving time to his studies.
Arjun's father Sanjiv Vajpai said there were some anxious moments. "I was concerned about his safety and contacted his instructors at Nehru Institute of Mountaineering in Uttarkashi. NIM principal I. S. Thapa was impressed by Arjun's climbing skills and determination. Arjun climbed DKD2 in Garhwal. On March 25 he left from Delhi and climbed Island peak in Nepal on April 7. From April 11 to May 17 he trained himself in rotational summit. He started from the Everest's base camp on May 18 and climbed on May 22."
Arjun's older sister Gauri, who is a political science student at Indraprastha College, said her brother was fond of taking up challenges in adventurous sports since his childhood. "In school, he has always been popular because of his performance in sports and won a lot of medals. So it wasn't surprising when one day he announced that he would climb Mt. Everest."