The teen who conquers mountains :

Posted by-Kalki Team

Lack of oxygen, freezing temperature, and the news of a fellow climbers death... none of it deterred 16-year-old Anjali Nagaraj and her familys wish to see the world from atop Mount Kilimanjaro

At a temperature below zero degrees, and an altitude of over 12,000 feet, 16-year-old Anjali Nagaraj feels only one thing: nausea. Its normal, she tells herself, as she climbs Mount Kilimanjaros steep ascent, her parents only a few steps behind her. But the pounding headache that follows can only mean one thing: the acute mountain sickness, better known as AMS or altitude sickness, has begun. Push too far, and it could be fatal. Its a risk Nagaraj says she was willing to take.

“We had spent six days reaching base camp. Having come so far, I couldnt turn back,” she recounts. Having experienced dizzying heights during her trek to Surya Top in the Himalayas just last year, Nagaraj was more than prepared for the week-long adventure. The passion, she says, took flight almost a decade ago.

What began as a family hobby evolved, taking Nagaraj to Kilimanjaros highest point, Uhuru Peak. She gives the credit to her father, Nagaraj Mahadevan. “I used to be an Indian Air Force officer, and during that time, we trekked extensively. I got my wife, Hemamalini, involved, and we would take Anjali on treks with the Chennai Trekking Club (CTC) almost every weekend,” Mahadevan chimes in.

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A student at Abacus Montessori School, Nagaraj has had her sights set on Kilimanjaro for quite some time. The family researched, choosing the longest possible route to undertake the hefty climb.

“To avoid AMS, you have to acclimatise yourself to the low-oxygen, high-altitude environment. By choosing a week-long route, we actually climbed up to the base camp, Barafu Camp, and back twice, before actually ascending the mountain. This way, we were ready,” Mahadevan says.

The experience is etched in Nagarajs mind, as she describes the varying scenery. “You begin in a lush, dense forest and move onto a cloud forest on the second day — a little less green.

At the end of day two, we see Kilimanjaro for the first time. That was absolutely amazing,” says Nagaraj. The last four days were spent on adjusting, and at midnight of day six, the team began its final ascent.

“The night before, it had snowed heavily, and some other campers had attempted the climb. Only two made it, and one elderly climber died,” Mahadevan says. The news shook Nagaraj, causing her to break down and turn to her parents for support. “I knew that if there was danger ahead, my father wouldnt let me continue.”

The final ascent took the team eight hours, slightly longer than the average six-and-a-half that most climbers take. Upon reaching the crater mouth, they had another hour of climbing, and at an altitude of 19,000 feet, every step was a struggle.

“I was limping and gasping for air. With no oxygen in the air, you become breathless, literally,” Nagaraj says. At eight in the morning, they saw the signboard: they had arrived. The group assembled to take pictures with Nagaraj, only a few minutes away from AMS final and most treacherous sign: delusions.

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“I could see it in her eyes: she wasnt responsive,” Mahadevan describes. After a brief moment, he and Nagaraj took the lead, descending the peak as quickly as they could. Euphoria followed, and once back in Chennai, Nagaraj was ecstatic.

“When you start, youre so excited. But as the days keep going, you become exhausted, and at one point, you question why youre doing any of this. It teaches you an immense amount of perseverance and willpower, and the end definitely justifies the journey,” Nagaraj says.

What does this mean for the young climber in the days ahead? “We dont know yet,” Mahadevan tells us.

“Shell be starting her Class XII, so currently, academics takes the forefront. But if she wants to take this up and train in a mountaineering college, were all for it. Doing that opens you up to a whole new world of trekking. This is not even close.”

Nagarajs plans are more concrete. “Next year, Mount Everest. I want to train well, since I didnt do much this time. Its a rough trek, but I cant wait.”

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