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Indian schoolboy rewrites history on the Himalayas

Friday May 20, 2011 12:26:09 PM, Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS

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Kathmandu: A 17-year-old schoolboy from a New Delhi suburb, who became a climbing sensation last year by becoming the youngest Indian to conquer Mt Everest, created a new record Friday by becoming the youngest in the world to ascent Mt Lhotse, the fourth highest peak.

After an aborted attempt last week due to bad weather, Arjun Vajpai, from Noida near the Indian capital, finally stood on the 8,516 m summit at 8.15 a.m., reported Asian Trekking, the Kathmandu-based mountaineering agency that had been handling the teen's climbing expeditions since last year.

Mt Lhotse, the third highest peak in the world after Mt Everest, K2 and Kangchenjunga, had never been climbed solo by any Indian.

First summited by Swiss Ernst Reiss and Fritz Luchsinger in 1956, three years after Mt Everest was tamed for the first time by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, Mt Lhotse has been climbed only by the Indian Army from the subcontinent.

In 2003, a joint India-Nepal Army Expedition led by Col Ashok Abbey from the Indian side saw the first Indian ascent of the mountain that has claimed over 20 lives.

Arjun, who becomes the youngest climber in the world to conquer the technically difficult Lhotse, had set a mountaineering record last year when he scaled Mt Everest, 332m higher than Lhotse, at the age of 16 and became the youngest Indian to accomplish the feat.

"Jai Hind," said his exultant mother Priya Vajpai, whose image Arjun has been carrying with him for inspiration through his gruelling climbs through Death Zone - the region above 8,000 m where breathing becomes difficult due to the diminishing level of oxygen.

Going off to conquer Mt Lhotse after just having finished his Class XII board exams, Arjun is now set on a career of adventure.

In winter, he is seeking to go on an expedition to the South Pole.

Last year, getting sponsors for the expensive Everest expedition - that costs about $35,000 - proved tougher than summiting the peak.

But the recognition Mt Everest brought him made the Lhotse ascent easier with his school, Ryan International, and two corporate houses - the Aditya Birla Group and ShivVani - coming forward to make the expedition possible.

Besides the Poles, Arjun has a second dream to chase. He wants to follow in the footsteps of his hero, the legendary Italian climber Reinhold Messner, who became the first mountaineer to climb all the 14 peaks worldwide towering over 8,000m.

No Indian has emulated the feat, partly due to two of the peaks - Nanga Parbat and K2 - being located in Pakistan and Indians finding it difficult to obtain visas due to the traditional rivalry between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

"After this I would like to attempt K2," Arjun told IANS. "It is one of the most challenging peaks and I would love to fly the Indian flag on its top."

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at





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