Living on the edge: In Arjun Vajpai's words
It was a day that changed a young 10 year old boy's life forever. I'm talking about India's famed mountaineer Arjun Vajpai, who became the youngest in history to climb six of the fourteen 8,000+ metre mountain peaks by scaling Mt. Kanchenjunga recently in May,2018, when he was twenty-five. So, there was nothing better than talking to him about his quest to the top.
1. Can you tell me how the journey of mountaineering began for you? What makes you stay motivated even today?
I went to my grandparent's house in Pune and my grandfather took me to the Sahyadris hills for an evening walk. Here, I said, ''Yahan sain kitna sundar hai(it's so beautiful from here), how would it be on top of the world.'' Getting back from these summer holidays, the sixth grade student, me, read about the famous Indian woman mountaineer Bachendri Pal, who was the first ever Indian to climb the Everest. These incidents lead me to be so inspired and start on a life altering journey in mountaineering.
2. How do you train yourself? Are there any particular diet plans, fitness routines, etc. that are involved during the off season or simply how do you prepare when you are not in the mode of climbing the mountain that time?
Mountaineering requires a lot of stamina and endurance. One must practice breathing techniques and put in lots of hours to work on running and cycling. These practical tips are being used by aspiring mountaineers, who train under my Noida base camp.( He also runs his adventure based travel company Holy Cow Adventures and his own foundation.) I can't emphasize enough the importance of a high carbohydrate-protein diet because a lot of energy is burnt in the process of climbing peaks and undergoing the training.
3. You are the face of Mountain Dew and have started with these short videos and films across social media. How do you work with that and what has led you to do that?
Every trek across these 8,000 metre peaks costs around 40 to 50 lakhs, so it turns out to be quite expensive. So, Mountain Dew has been sponsoring me for the past few years and documents my journey(both the good and bad moments) through videos and stills. A photographer from their team accompanies me on the journey.
4. Now, I come to this recent climb of yours on Kanchenjunga. You had tried to summit it last year but did not do so. So, what went through your mind this time around and how did you prepare for this extremely difficult climb?
Kanchenjunga is even tougher to climb than the Everest as you can easily make out via the online statistics. Last year, the weather did not permit me to go up but this time around I got the right window as I was lucky to get three clear days to reach the summit.(Achieved this target on 20th May,2018)
5. You are the youngest person in the world to have climbed 6 of the 14 8,000 metre mountains in the world. How do you feel about that? What are your future goals?
That fire that the ten year old boy had makes me feel the rush even today. I aim to climb the remaining 8 mountains in the near future.
6. You were just 16 when you climbed Everest. Can you tell us what was your journey like before climbing this epic mountain and what was in your mind while you were at the top?
It was the best moment of my life. It made me dream even bigger and made me want to scale even more high peaks. Dreams do turn into reality if adequate hard work is put into realizing them. After scaling the Everest, I turned to my life's ambition of becoming the first Indian to be placed in the heroic list of mountaineers who have successfully climbed all fourteen of the 8,000 metre mountains in the world.
7. Now, mountaineering is an extreme sport and involves a lot of risks. I’ve seen your video where you explain how you had become over enthusiastic and wanted to climb down the Everest at a speed which was faster than the normal course. How do you survive in these conditions?
It's just the natural surviving instincts. I've had bad lucks but that's why people say that it is important to be mature. You just cannot give up and the margin of error is low.
8. Since you are almost always taking these risk taking battles on different peaks, do you indulge in any hobbies that keep your mind even more agile?
I do a lot of Yoga for mental peace.
9. It also strikes one’s curiosity as to what exactly happens during a mountaineering summit. Can you please elaborate a bit on the journey right from the start to the end?
It's simple. One needs to establish a base camp, put together a team from different countries, co-ordinate with a local Nepalese manager, acclimatize oneself for the mountain, and then find the precious moment to take the shot and go.
10. Can you share some vital tips for improvement in mountaineering and in terms of physical fitness in general for any normal person who wants to improve his/her fitness routines?
I advise the upcoming climbers to undertake courses at mountaineering institutes in the country, where Indians are given discounted rates to participate. Moreover, my success was just being outdoors and this has created a rush in my heart and head to scale even more. RECORDS ARE MEANT TO BE BROKEN and my expeditions are meant to inspire more youngsters to take up the sport.(He beamed with pride that more Indians have climbed the Everest post his success atop.) I feel that aspiring mountaineers should, like I said earlier, focus on their breathing, running,and cycling.
11. Finally, I would like to ask you to share some of your success mantras to your followers and fans.
Time is the most important. One must learn to stick to a schedule and there is no set mantra. One must have a vision, dream big, and dare to chase it.