Arjun Vajpai’s mother Priya Vajpai
After two days of snowfall, when the sun rises on the advanced base camps at the fifth highest peak of the world, Mount Makalu in Nepal, the sherpas say a prayer while setting up a stupa and putting up flags of the climbers’ country flags. The prayer seeks permission from the gods to climb a mountain.”But this time, we don’t know if we’d climb. It is to keep us all safe,” mountaineer Arjun Vajpai, the only Indian among the 70-75 mountaineers and sherpas told his mother Priya Vajpai over satellite phone on Monday, as his team waits at 19,000 ft, not knowing which would be more treacherous – returning to the base camp braving the unpredictability of loosened boulders or forging ahead to the expedition’s finish line.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”When the ice starts breaking, the sound is frightening. But we are fine and in a good frame of mind,” his mother quoted him as saying.”The choppers go only up to the base camp. But to get there they have to be sure there won’t be any more tremors. They want to move ahead but the weather reports are not good,” Priya told dna. The team has enough food and water for around 45 days. Saturday’s earthquake has shaken Priya, but she puts up a brave front as she answers calls from concerned friends and relatives. She goes through turmoil every summer when Arjun takes off for the mountains to climb some Himalayan peak, but the temblor has escalated her anxiety this time. The third youngest Indian to climb Mount Everest at 16, Arjun, now 21, has climbed Mount Makalu twice before.”When the ice starts breaking, the sound is frightening… But we are all fine and in good frame of mind,” he told his mother on satellite phone on Monday afternoon. The team plans to stay at the camp till April 30. The climb to Makalu is fraught with dangers of seracs, a block of glacial ice which can fall with little warning. Like most people in Delhi, Priya and her family ran out of their house when they felt the tremors on Saturday. “And then I got worried about where the epicentre was. Just then Arjun called up and said the mountains were shaking, there were avalanches and it had started snowing. He asked us to check with the met department. We saw on television and told him,” Priya said.”We feel helpless not being able to do anything. Arjun told me not to worry about him but about the building we live in: what if it comes down?” she said, laughing. The advanced base camp of Makalu is an open area and has valleys on three sides, making it safer for the mountaineers who are camping there, he told Priya. It was when they were putting up the communication tents that the quake had hit. Three climbers, who had moved beyond the camp, returned safe but they are too shaken to go back. Priya said Arjun, who has learnt Nepalese, wanted to help out in the villages once he got to that country. “His grand parents, uncles and aunts ask me why I let him go on these expeditions. But how can I stop him?” she asked.
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