Double amputee conquers Mount Everest

22 May 2023 01:56pm
 In this file photo taken on April 3, 2023, Gurkha veteran Hari Budha Magar poses during an interview with AFP in Kathmandu - AFP
In this file photo taken on April 3, 2023, Gurkha veteran Hari Budha Magar poses during an interview with AFP in Kathmandu - AFP
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KATHMANDU - A former Gurkha soldier in the British army who lost both his legs in Afghanistan has reached the top of Mount Everest, making mountaineering history, reported German news agency (dpa).

Hari Budha Magar, 43, has become the first double above-the-knee amputee to summit the world's tallest mountain.

The veteran arrived at Everest on April 17, exactly 13 years since his legs were destroyed by an IED in Afghanistan in 2010.

But he had to wait until May 19 to reach the summit and he was forced to spend 18 days waiting at the Everest base camp for the weather to clear.

While climbing, the veteran and his crew faced freezing conditions and he saw two dead bodies being dragged down.

Even when the conditions were safe to reach the summit, the poor weather meant his sunglasses and oxygen mask were frozen over and he had just a few minutes at the top.

Speaking from the Mount Everest base camp, he said: "All of my jackets were completely frozen. Even our warm water -- we put hot water in the thermos -- and that was also frozen and we were not able to drink.

"When I came down, we ran out of oxygen. The guys came up with oxygen... I was bumping down on my bum and we had 30 or 40 minutes of oxygen left, and we still had about two or three hours to get down."

Budha Magar first wanted to climb the mountain when he was walking to school barefoot.
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He left Nepal to serve as a corporal with the Gurkha regiment in the British army before his life-changing injury.

The veteran said he believed his life was "completely finished" after losing his lower legs and he struggled to climb into a wheelchair or to transfer into a car.

"I grew up in Nepal up to the age of 19, and I saw how disabled people were treated. Many people still think that disability is a sin from a previous life and you are the earth's burden. I believed this myself because that is what I saw. That is how I grew up."

He continued: "It was a pretty hard time and at one point, I was just drinking too much, to control my pain and emotions, and I tried to kill myself a couple of times."

But after trying out a range of sports and adventures with military charities, Budha Magar got his confidence back and gave up drinking.

Originally, the veteran planned to climb Everest in 2018 but double amputees and blind people were banned from climbing the mountain in a bid to reduce the number of climbers dying on the peak.

The veteran helped campaign to have the ban removed. Since then, more double amputees have come to climb in Nepal, said Budha Magar.

To complete the challenge, the veteran had to get specially designed prosthetic legs that could cope with the ice and snow, which he describes as his "spider legs".

He said: "When I climb, I use different legs and we have installed heating socks to make it warm so that I don't lose any more limbs. I just climb one step at a time."

Once he is down from the mountain, Budha Magar is looking forward to spending time with his family at their home in Canterbury.

The veteran also wants to return to Afghanistan to the site where he lost his legs so that he can say "thank you".

"Without (losing my legs), I wouldn't be climbing Everest. Whatever happened, it happened for good. - BERNAMA

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