Atop Mt Dhaulagiri, solo & sans oxygen
Deccan Chronicle.| Sulogna Mehta
'Mountains make me feel afraid and protected, vulnerable and confident at the same time': Anurag Nallavelli
Anurag Nallavelli, the first Indian civilian to summit two 8000-plus metres peaks sans oxygen. (By Arrangement)
Anurag Nallavelli from Hyderabad has done it again — after summiting Mt Manaslu (8,163 metres) solo and without supplemental oxygen in September 2021, he successfully summited another Himalayan peak — Mt Dhaulagiri (the seventh highest in the world) in April 2022, reportedly becoming the first Indian civilian to conquer two Himalayan peaks above 8,000 metres and numbered among the world’s 10 highest peaks, without supplemental oxygen.
The 30-year-old techie from Hyderabad working in Michigan, USA, underwent a sea change after he came in contact with nature and the mountains in March 2020, when he was caught in the lockdown in an animal sanctuary in California. A month-long hike on the Colorado trail followed. He developed a tremendous interest in hiking and mountaineering.
Speaking about his latest expedition, Anurag says, "Mt Dhaulagiri was not my first choice. I was planning to summit Mt Annapurna. But our expedition leader G Mingma suggested climbing in March because of the better conditions. I decided to start with Mt Dhaulagiri and proceed to Mt Annapurna. But I suffered frostbite and have to rest for two-three months."
Beset by challenges
While summiting Mt Dhaulagiri solo (8,167 metres or 26,795 ft above sea level) on April 9, Anurag realized that though their altitudes are almost the same, Mt Dhaulagiri is technically way harder than Mt Manaslu.
Training on simulators
Elaborating on the hurdles, Anurag says, "The main challenge was attempting the climb while recuperating from my shoulder injury. I had dislocated my right shoulder and fractured it while attempting a winter ascent of Mount Rainier in Washington in January. I had been undergoing physiotherapy until a day before I flew to Nepal. I have not yet completely recovered. I started training with one hand and carrying heavy backpack on only one shoulder. I tried not to pressure the injured shoulder much."
Thanking his physiotherapist Alicia Macdonald, a climber herself, Anurag says, "She helped me a lot in my recovery and strength training. I was using an altitude chamber and simulators as I could not go to Colorado for training."
The second major issue Anurag faced during the expedition was food poisoning, which he contracted during his acclimatization hikes before leaving for base camp. He reached the base camp at the end of March and did two acclimatization rotations without supplemental oxygen. "I was scheduled to summit on April 9, but three days before that I again developed nausea and food poisoning. I continued at a slower pace from the base camp to the subsequent higher camps. Even on April 8, I was down with nausea. Despite that, I pushed myself to continue and summited at 11.20 AM on April 9 after leaving Camp 3 at 12.35 AM (wee hours). However, the ordeals continued. Near the summit, while struggling to take something out from my backpack, the bag slid down the mountain, and with a partially injured shoulder I couldn't retrieve it. I got frostbite on my left hand."
Despite all the hurdles and challenges, Anurag says "Mountains make me feel afraid and protected, vulnerable and confident at the same time."
After he recovers, he is planning to go to Peru in July and climb a 6,000-metre peak for training. He will be back in Nepal to attempt the Cho Oyu (from the Nepal side) in October. "For 2023, I have three peaks —Annapurna, Kanchenjunga and Makalu — lined up back-to-back for climbing without supplemental oxygen," he adds.