Hyderabad: Anurag Nallavelli, a mountaineer originally from Hyderabad, was an hour away from reaching the summit of Mt. Manaslu when he saw a dead body being dragged down the mountain. "As I made progress to the summit, my senses weren't working but the visuals kept playing in my mind. The minute I was back at camp 4, I just crashed. I felt so lonely and the visuals of the dead body ran in my mind. I cried a lot. I felt helpless. I thought that it could've been me or anyone else who was climbing solo without oxygen or any backup," he recalls.
On 28 September 2021, Anurag Nallavelli climbed Mt. Manaslu, the eighth highest in the world becoming the first Indian civilian to climb an 8,000 metre mountain without supplemental oxygen and Sherpa (guide). His success was not planned overnight but was a result of months of strenuous hard work, perseverance, and rugged experiences.
Narrating one of the hardest episodes of the trek, Anurag explains how seeing a dead body left him mentally and physically exhausted for the next two days. But he geared up, mindful of his purpose, on the third day.
"Situations like this teach me a lot and make me feel alive and strong. Mountains make me feel afraid and protected, vulnerable and confident at the same time," says Anurag.
Mt. Manaslu trek
Anurag started his trek to Manaslu at 2 a.m. It was snowing heavily and he couldn't see the headlights. Soon he reached the death zone at around 8,000 metres. "In death zone, your mind behaves differently, you start hallucinating and imagining things," says Anurag.
He was all alone. Though he thoroughly enjoyed the challenges of solo tripping, he says it would have been better if he had a climbing partner. "Someone to share the experiences, to learn from them, to check on you when you are not feeling well…," says Anurag.
The trek to Mt. Manaslu was also his first climbing experience without using supplemental oxygen.
"Meeting people is always the happiest thing about all my journeys," says Anurag. He recalls the warmth he received from the local Sherpas and the Nepali cooking staff he met en route.
The most important thing is to get used to harsh, cold climates, notes Anurag. "The higher you go, it becomes a death zone no matter how much clothing you wear," he says adding, "I used to jump into cold showers."
Secondly, one needs to adjust to altitudes. Anurag undertook a 45-day journey to Leadville (around 10,200 feet above sea level) in Colorado to familiarize himself with higher altitudes. Sometimes he slept on top of summits for one or two hours, biked or ran from mountain tops with a heavy backpack.
He also sincerely followed a vegan diet and fasted regularly for faster muscle recovery.
Start of the mountaineering journey
Till 2018, Anurag was a working professional in a US company. In 2018, he started hiking every weekend. The more he hiked, the more he liked it. He wanted to devote more time to it.
The COVID-19 proved a good time for Anurag. He went to Oregon where he met many passionate mountaineers and started doing regular hikes for six months. Mt. Hood in Oregon was the first mountain that he climbed. "This made me passionate to learn more," says Anurag. What followed was exciting months of regular treks.
"As a child, I was not even aware that such a thing existed. I passed time playing cricket with my friends," recalls Anurag. He moved to the US for work in 2016. This opened up a window of opportunities for him to further discover his happiness.
Anurag's biggest dream is to climb Mt. Kanchenjunga (third highest in the world) and Mt. Everest (the highest in the world) without supplemental oxygen by 2023. But he has a lot on his plate to do before that. "I am planning to climb Mt. Annapurna (10th highest in the world) and Makalu (fifth highest) by April 2022. These are riskier mountains with avalanches," says Anurag.
He fervently looks forward to making his passion a full-time profession. "I am eagerly waiting to quit my job (he laughs). But as these journeys are expensive, I am desperately searching for some good-hearted sponsor so that I can devote entirely to my passion," says Anurag.