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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

NRI techie takes to mountaineering to beat pandemic blues, scales world’s eighth-highest peak without oxygen

A Hyderabadi software professional based in Michigan (USA), Anurag took to mountaineering to break the monotony of the pandemic-induced lockdown in June 2020.

Written by Rahul V Pisharody | Hyderabad |
Updated: November 1, 2021 7:36:07 pm
Anurag has even attended work-related meeting calls at an altitude of 14,000-plus feet. (Photo: Instagram @catchmeanurag)

NRI techie Anurag Nallavalli (29) has achieved the unique feat of summiting Mount Manaslu in Nepal, the eight-highest mountain peak in the world at 26,781 feet (or 8,163 metres), without a personal sherpa (an expert) or supplementary oxygen.

A Hyderabadi software professional based in Michigan (USA), Anurag took to mountaineering to break the monotony of the pandemic-induced lockdown in June 2020. A weekend camping trip to a non-profit animal sanctuary in California, he said, changed his life.

He was camping in a trailer along with a friend when the lockdown was announced. Stuck at the animal sanctuary owing to the lockdown, he started working part-time on a farm. He also continued working for his regular company remotely. “Amid all the rescued animals from alpaca, lama and cows to pigs, we found positivity when it mattered. The couple who run the place are like my parents. Even today, that trailer is my address in the US,” he said.

During his free time, he researched mountaineering, built connections, trained physically and mentally, and has scaled snow-covered peaks of Mt Hood (11,250 feet) in Oregon, Mt Rainier (14,411 feet) in Washington, Mt Shasta (14,179 feet) in California, Mt Denali (20,310 feet) in Alaska and Mt Pico de Orizaba (18,491 feet) in Mexico over the last 18 months.

He has even attended work-related meeting calls at an altitude of 14,000-plus feet. While pandemic brought the worst to the fore for many, someone like Anurag credits the period for bringing out the best in him. “Had the pandemic not happened, I would not have taken hiking or mountaineering seriously.”

Without supplementary oxygen, Anurag chose to do multiple ups and downs between camps 1 to 4 as part of ‘acclimatization rotations’ before taking to the summit. (Photo: Instagram @catchmeanurag)

It took him 20 days to summit Mt Manaslu in September 2021. Anurag said the plan was to give his best shot, enjoy the experience, and return from what is called the death zone (at 8,000 metres) if he felt uncomfortable without oxygen. “At times during whiteouts, I was not sure if I was on the right path. I saw a line of cafes and people enjoying coffee. Of course, I was hallucinating. But I also saw the body of a 37-year-old Canadian climber being taken away. That was for real. At such heights, there is no past or future but only the present. That is what thrills me,” he said.

Without supplementary oxygen, Anurag chose to do multiple ups and downs between camps 1 to 4 as part of ‘acclimatization rotations’ before taking to the summit. “At camp 3 (6,700 m), all I did for 48 hours inside the tent at sub-zero temperatures was sleep and read a book.”

“While returning to the base camp, my biggest motivation was to talk to my mother back home and also eat a plate of dal baath. I barely ate anything during the three nights of the summit.”

Now with a week left for his return to the US, Anurag is working from his parents’ home in Hyderabad’s Karmanghat. He is also on the lookout for sponsors to support his passion. Anurag said that he wants to conquer Mt Annapurna (8,091 m), Mt Makalu (8,481 m), and Mt Dhaulagiri (8,167 m) in March-April 2022, and Mt Cho-Oyu (8,188 m) and Mt Kanchenjunga (8,586 m) in September 2022.

“I plan to scale all these peaks without oxygen support or a sherpa. My ultimate goal for 2023 is to scale Mt Everest without oxygen support,” said Anurag, pointing out that the difference in height between Mt Manaslu and Mt Everest is 700-odd metres. “But each metre counts here, especially when the terrain and the weather keep changing every minute,” he said.

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