Former 16-Year-Old Everest Summiter Returns For No-O2 Ascent

8000ers Everest
Arjun Vajpai is the one of only two climbers this year so far who will attempt Everest without supplementary O2. Photo: Arjun Vajpai

Already a record-setter at age 16, Arjun Vajpai has returned to the peak that launched his climbing career.

Arjun Vajpai was only 16 when he stood on the summit of Everest, an age record for India at the time. A decade later, he has returned to Everest, this time to climb it without bottled O2.

Since that early success, the young man from India has also summited Lhotse, Manaslu, Makalu, Cho Oyu, and Kangchenjunga. But those successes did not come easily.

Right after gaining fame for his Everest summit, young Arjun tasted fear and failure: He was at Camp 2 on Cho Oyu the following year, when his left side suddenly became paralyzed. His Sherpas eventually descended, leaving him alone in his tent. He thought that he would die there, but he dragged himself outside. There, he met Swiss climber Olivier Racine, who administered some drugs and helped him down to Base Camp, as Vajpai describes in this video.

Arjun Vajpai atop Everest at age 16. Photo: Arun Vajpai

Before returning to Cho Oyu (which he eventually climbed in 2016), he went to Makalu four times. Twice, bad weather forced him back. His third try coincided with the massive earthquake that hit Nepal in 2015. Finally, on the fourth attempt, he succeeded.

Also in 2015, some weeks before the quake, Arjun and partner Bhupesh Kumar summited a 6,180m unclimbed peak in India’s Spiti Valley, in the Himachal Pradesh. He named it Mt. Kalam, after India’s former president Abdul Kalam.

Vajpai, with a sun-kissed Mt. Trishul in the background.

This past January this year, Vajpai returned to make a first winter ascent of Mt. Trishul (7,120m) in India’s Kumaon Himalaya. Back in 1907, Trishul became the first 7,000m peak ever climbed, but it had never been attempted in winter. Vajpai and his Indian team planned to climb light and fast, but a snowstorm aborted their venture prematurely at Camp 1.

Last fall, Vajpai announced that he intended to climb Everest solo from the north side, but Tibet is currently closed to foreigners, so he has adjusted his goals. With 300 permits issued, he will hardly be solo, but his no-O2 style still leaves him in rarefied company. So far, Csaba Varga of Hungary is the only other climber to attempt Everest without supplementary oxygen this season.

While Everest’s age record is held by 13-year-old Jordan Romero and by the 13-year-old Indian girl, Malavath Poorna, the outcry about younger and younger children attempting Everest led to a regulation change. Now, 16 is the minimum age allowed.

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About the Author

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides

Senior journalist, published author and communication consultant. Specialized on high-altitude mountaineering, with an interest for everything around the mountains: from economics to geopolitics. After five years exploring distant professional ranges, I returned to ExWeb BC in 2018. Feeling right at home since then!

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Alex
Alex
6 months ago

He looks waaaay older then 26. Judging by the top picture I thought late 40’s or so, yikes! All the best to him though with the no 02 climb and hopefully he summits without anything going wrong. Seems that most of his trips have been fraught with perilous events so let’s hope this one is uneventful and he returns safely.

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Lenore Jones
Lenore Jones
6 months ago
Reply to  Alex

He looks younger in the past picture, but I agree; I was surprised, too. Good luck to him!

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Capt SB Tyagi
6 months ago

Those who are mountaineer themselves or have knowledge of perils stubborn mountains give to people adamant to summit them know and appreciate the bad effects climate and nature’s elements have on young people like him. These are however temporary setback. I have interviewed him just five days back and found him looking every day of his young age. His is very determined and full of optimism. Know him since his early childhood and know how determined he is. For his full interview on his success and failures, on his trials and tribulations and what keeps him focused, kindly see his… Read more »

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