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Delhi schoolboy creates history, summits Mt. Everest

By The Assam Tribune

KATHMANDU, May 22 (IANS): A doughty schoolboy from New Delhi added yet another feat to the annals of mountaineering by becoming the youngest Indian to climb Mt. Everest, the world's highest peak, Saturday.

Arjun Vajpai of Ryan International School, who turns 17 next month, became the tallest 12th grader when he planted the Indian tricolour on the snow-clad summit of the 8,848 metre mountain.

There was jubilation at his home in New Delhi as his mother Priya Vajpai laughed and cried in relief on being told that her son had reached the summit.

"I have no words to describe my feelings," Priya Vajpai told IANS on the phone.

Arjun set off for the last push at 10.45 p.m. Friday night, making it to the top of the world at 6.18 a.m. Saturday.

"We were anxiously waiting for a call in the morning and when it came, I was laughing and crying," Priya Vajpai said.

Arjun exuded calm and confidence before embarking on the last and most difficult part of the journey.

"Stop worrying, mom, I am fine," he told his mother. "I can run my way to the top."

Arjun was part of a 12-member expedition that has a record number of Indian climbers trying their luck individually.

Two hours later, Arjun's team member Mamata Sodah, a 30-year-old physical education teacher at Shaheed Baba Deep Singh College of Education in Haryana, also stood on the summit, making it the fourth Indian ascent this year.

On Monday, two more Indian members of the team, who had joined at the last moment after being refused a climbing permit by the Chinese authorities, had reached the summit.

Basanta Singha Roy, a 47-year-old veteran climber and bank employee, and Debashish Biswas, 37 and an Income Tax official, became the first climbers from Nadia district in West Bengal to conquer Mt. Everest.

High school student Bhagyshree Sawant, who is also part of the team, would set out for the summit Tuesday.

If she reaches the top, Bhagyashree will become the youngest Indian woman to achieve the feat, overturning the record set last year by fellow Maharashtrian Krushnaa Patil.

Though Arjun began climbing only three years ago, he took to the sport immediately. He had no acclimatisation problems while taking up the Everest challenge.

"I have no headache, breathing trouble or eating disorder," he said. "In fact, I am eating more here."

Also, he began using bottled oxygen only after he reached camp three, from where the final push for the ascent starts.

Arjun said he was making the attempt for the incredible view the summit offers to successful climbers.

"It is an out of the world feeling," he told IANS on the eve of the expedition.

Arjun was also buoyed by the thought that he would be in the company of legendary climber Apa Sherpa, the man who has climbed the peak the highest number of times - 19 - and is aiming to reach the summit for the 20th time.

Arjun's father Sanjiv Vajpai said he was initially afraid to let Arjun go on the expedition.

"He is just 16," the retired Indian Army major said. "I wondered if it would be fair to expose him to such a life-threatening risk. But his instructors at the Nehru Mountaneering Institute, where he did two mountaineering courses, said he had both the physical and mental ability to summit Mt. Everest and we decided to let him go."

A 13-year-old American school boy is also eyeing Mt. Everest.

Jordan Romero is also on his way to the summit. He is going through Tibet since Nepal does not allow climbers below 16 to attempt the hazardous climb.

If he succeeds, he will become the youngest person in the world to have tamed the mountain.

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