Anuraag Khandelwal conquers EBC with grit and trusty crutches!
Thirteen consecutive days, traversing unforgiving terrains, scaling heights never imagined…from a trek novice to standing at Everest Base Camp, the journey unfolded like a vivid dream.
Anuraag Khandelwal is the CCO of 82.5 Communications, a specialist agency of Ogilvy India group. Anuraag, a polio survivor aided by a carbon fibre leg brace and two trusty crutches, dared to dream the impossible – Everest Base Camp. It was not easy for
Here we speak to the man behind mission impossible and how he achieved his goal, challenges notwithstanding...
So a tiny piece of rock reached you from EBC to call you?
Yes! It not only called me… it made me follow it to a mountain!
Are you a man always drawn to challenges?
I would say I am a man who likes to haul himself out of his comfort zone. I don’t necessarily like it while I am at it but I do enjoy the learnings in hindsight.
This trip though was not easy for anyone, with extreme temperatures, dipping oxygen levels and the strenuousness of the trip...
Well, when we finally reached EBC, my Sherpa guide told me that my effort and prep for doing EBC was as good as a person without disabilities summitting the Everest.
I take that with a pinch of salt, but I get what he’s saying.
So yes. It was not easy for me at all.
You decided to undertake this arduous journey, with the challenge of being a polio survivor aided by a carbon fibre leg brace and two trusty crutches.... How easy was it?
There were lots of learnings and issues. I had to improvise on a lot of problems I had never faced with my braces or crutches. The way we kept increasing or reducing the crutch length, the way we modified certain things on my braces for balance… all of it was new! The terrain was unforgiving but I think I had the blessings of the Mountain Gods. I had a fantastic team to support me and guide me through all the twists and turns and encourage me for every achievement, big or small.
Tell us about what it took to train and forge a path of strength and endurance?
How did you come across the sports company with Paralympic insights and retain a personal trainer as your guide? What kind of discipline did it take?
How did you push your boundaries? And how did you make time for it?
Tell us more about a farm turning into a training ground across seasons...
I was a complete novice to trekking and hiking… heck… even walking long distances.
I was sure I wanted to do this so I simply got started.
I got talking to a lot of people about it and one friend recommended a place in Bangalore called Invictus that had some experience with training Paralympic athletes. Bangalore didn’t work out from a physical training perspective as I live in Mumbai. But Invictus introduced me to Potential Health Development, a company that helps athletes with their nutrition needs. So I consulted them for my dietary needs and general health.
My childhood friend Dr Deval Doshi kept a regular check on my mental and physical health. She recommended Sports Med in Mumbai for physical training and I then consulted a physiotherapist there.
I trained extensively with a friend and colleague, VR Rajesh, who spent a lot of time training with me, going up and down hillocks at his farm.
My wife put me onto breathing exercises.
I then met Jayesh Morvankar, who runs Odati Adventures, and he charted out a whole trekking and hiking plan for the entire year of my training and the itinerary
for the EBC trek.
I started weight and endurance training at Gold’s Gym at Goregaon.
I spent every weekend walking and trekking, sometimes at the farm and sometimes in and around Goregaon. Aarey milk colony and National park became my regular walking tracks. I started climbing the floors of my building regularly. I went for regular physio trainings. I walked and trained after office hours, before office hours and weekends!
My wife and best friend Kuhelee, my closest friends - VR Rajesh, Dr. Deval Doshi, Mandar Khatkul, my dietician Alia Abreo, my trainer Vaibhav Bhagwat,
my physio Aarti Mahadik, my yoga teacher Sonali Kalgaonkar who runs Golden Earth and so many more people came together to make this happen. It truly took a village to make my EBC endeavour come true. All of these people trained me and before I hit the EBC track, I was doing 8-9 kms walks, 50 floors up and 50 floors down, up and down steep terrains and what not.
What were your feeling when it came to actually taking the precarious road to Everest?
I was excited, nervous, scared, vulnerable, happy, sure but unsure, resolved, strong, weak, butterflies in stomach, full of josh, emotional - all at one time!! But mostly excited.
Thirteen consecutive days, traversing unforgiving terrains, scaling heights never imagined…from a trek novice to standing at Everest Base Camp, the journey, of trekking nine to eleven hours a day, in temperatures from -9° to -15°Celsius.... How did you manage?
By sheer will and ziddi-ness, with the good wishes of family, friends and my team, AND a huge chunk of luck!
At any point did you feel I made a mistake? What kept you going?
My resolve. My doggedness. I just wanted to make that picture I had in my head of being at EBC, a reality.
What was the difficult part?
Waiting for almost 3 hrs for the chopper to arrive the next day after completing EBC since there was an earthquake in Nepal and all the choppers had been redirected for rescues.
What was your feeling on reaching EBC?
I was exhausted. It was not at all pretty like I thought it would be! It was much below freezing temperatures when I touched that EBC stone. But it felt really good!
I was proud of myself, my entire team and it felt awesome to wave our national flag! But the first thing I remember thinking to myself after I touched down was
“I want to go home”.
What did the trip teach you? What would you like to tell others today?
If you really want to start finding out who you are, do something that’s very out of your comfort zone and so boring that it compels you to look inside and not only outward.