For Chinese climber Xia Boyu, reaching Everest’s top has always been so close, yet so far. But not this time.
The 69-year-old became the first double amputee to summit Mount Everest from the Nepal side on May 14 after five total attempts.
In 1975, on Xia’s first Everest climb, he suffered severe frostbite in both feet, which resulted in the removal of his legs. He had given his sleeping bag to a climber on his team.
According a Chinese state media article, it was torture for Xia to listen to the news of the team reaching the top through a radio while he was lying on the operating table about to have his legs amputated.
Xia didn’t give up his dream of summiting — he attempted the climb again in 2014, 2015 and 2016 with prosthetic legs, but never succeeded due to extreme weather and avalanches.
In 2016, he was only 94 meters away from Everest’s top when a wind storm held the climbing team back. On CCTV’s television show “Impossible Challenge,” Xia said as much as he wanted to continue the climb, he couldn’t risk the lives of the five young Sherpa guides accompanying him.
They turned around.
“They are only 20-something,” he said on the show. “I cannot sacrifice other people’s lives to realize my dream.”
In another bump on his journey to conquer Everest, the Nepalese tourism ministry banned solo climbers, double amputees and blind people from climbing the mountain in January 2018, saying the restrictions would reduce the number of fatalities. However, Nepal’s highest court ordered the ban to be lifted in March 2018.
With 40 years of climbing experience in his back pocket, Xia finally scaled the top of Mount Everest in May 2018.
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