By Prashant Sood
T seram (Nepal), May 25:
The thunder of helicopter
breaks early morning silence as mountaineer Arjun Vajpai lands in this eastern Nepal village after scaling Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest peak.
Vajpai has become the youngest person in the world to have scaled six peaks above 8,000 metres.
The 24-year-old achieved the feat on May 20, after a gruelling climb that saw him battle the changing weather patterns and depletion of his oxygen supply near the summit.
He did not feel scared during the arduous journey that posed risks of avalanches, falling rocks and crevasses.
The feat has special significance for Vajpai as he rates the climb to 8,586-metre Kanchenjunga as “technically” the toughest of his high mountain ascents so far, including the Mount Everest.
The young mountaineer has come back to Kanchenjunga base camp after scaling the peak and had been waiting for his father retired Colonel Sanjiv Vajpai, who eventually could reach him and bring him down to Chairam in a challenging helicopter sortie on Thursday.
Arjun Vajpai intends to become the youngest person in the world to scale all 14 above 8,000 metre-peaks. The next mountain on his list is Shishapangma (8,013 metres) in Nyalam County, Tibet.
Describing the 15 minutes he spent on the third highest peak in the world at the Kanchenjunga summit, Vajpai said it was “a very beautiful feeling”.
“That’s the place I feel like being at. That’s the place I am running to be at through the year. So when I am on the summit, it is feeling of 100 per cent content. I have no desire, no dreams, no unrest from within,” Vajpai told IANS.
He scaled Kanchenjunga at 8.05 a.m. (IST) on May 20, and said he was surprised by the summit push from Camp 4 as it was “up, up and up”.
“Generally on a mountain there are places you can take off your back pack. On this particular summit push, after Camp 4 (about 7,400m) there is no place where you can probably take out your back pack. There is no place where you can probably rest. That was intriguing and after a point got annoying, exhausting.”
He said the peak was not visible from about 8,300m and it looked the summit push would never end.
“The trek was just unending. My feet had gone cold. It was 12-13 hours of continuous climbing,” Vajpai said, adding that a thought came if he should keep going ahead or return.
He said the final summit ridge is very long and entails crossing the width of the mountain. “And that was another very big challenge.”
Arjun Vajpai’s desire to become a mountaineer arose when he, as a young child, went with his grandparents to Sahyadri ranges and saw the setting sun.
He went for basic and advance mountaineering courses in 2009 and scaled Mount Everest (8,848m) the next year. In 2011, he scaled Lhotse (8,516m)and Manaslu (8,156m).
The next four years did not see any success and he had near death experience during expedition to Cho Oyu (8,201m) in 2012 when his left side was paralysed.
After recovering he attempted to scale Makalu (8,481m) in 2013 and again in 2014 but had to return from relatively small distances from the peak.
He finally scaled both Makalu and Cho Oyu in 2016. Vajpai, who does his prayers during the climb, had attempted to scale Kanchenjunga in 2017 also but could not reach the summit due to tough weather conditions.
He said coordination between sherpas and climbing members was much better in 2018 and though the weather conditions were bad initially, things finally fell into place.
His moment of euphoria during the climb, that began from Kathmandu on April 4, was seeing Mount Everest, Lhotse and Makalu together from outside his tent at Camp 4.
“I saw the three mountains on the horizon of the earth. And that moment, I had flash of memory of my journeys. I felt how far we had come in this journey. How far had we survived. How far had we all dreamt. How big can dreams be. How much they can motivate you. How far they can push you to be here.”
The beverage brand Mountain Dew has been partnering with Vajpai since 2016.
Naseeb Puri, Director Mountain Dew, Pepsico India, who was at Tseram to receive the mountaineer, said they take his journey as also of many others to the masses to inspire youth to achieve the extraordinary.
“We strive to inspire the youth to conquer real mountain — the one that resides in each one of us. The Risk Takers of India platform showcases real life heroes,” she said.
Tseram village is at an elevation of 3,870m and is about 1,500m below the Kanchenjunga advanced base camp.
Vajpai’s next aim is to scale a peak above 8,000 meters without taking supplementary oxygen.
(Prashant Sood was in Nepal at the invitation of Mountain Dew. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
By Prashant Sood