Soldier veteran becomes first double amputee to climb Everest
A Gurkha soldier veteran has become the first double amputee to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
Hari Budha Magar made history at 3pm on Friday when he conquered the highest mountain in the world.
On 17 April 2006 Budha Magar lost both legs in an IED explosion while serving in Afghanistan, eighteen years on from the very day he started his expedition to climb Everest.
Just a few days after setting off the weather took a treacherous turn for the worse, forcing Budha Magar and his crew to pause their climb at the base of the iconic mountain where they witnessed two dead bodies being dragged down its slope.
Speaking to the PA news agency from the Mount Everest base camp, he said: “All of my jackets were completely freezing. It was all frozen. Even with 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, 40 minutes of oxygen, and we still had about two, three hours to get down.”
The extreme weather meant Budha Magar could not spend long at Everest’s summit, his sunglasses and oxygen mask froze over, meaning he only had just a few minutes at the peak.
Budha Magar was joined on the climb by a team of Nepalese expertises, under the watchful eye of leader Krish Thapa a fellow former Gurkha and SAS mountain troop leader.
His adrenaline making history was a world away compared to the low he felt after losing both legs, at the time he suffered from depression and turned to alcohol.
“I grew up in Nepal, up to the age of 19, and I saw how the disabled people were treated in those remote villages,” he recalled. “Many people still think that disability is a sin of previous life and you are the burden of the earth. I believed this myself because that is what I saw. That is how I grew up.”
“It was a pretty hard time and at one point I was just drinking too much, to just control my pain and emotions and all the things, and I tried to kill myself a couple of times.”
Climbing Everest had been a childhood dream ever since he was walking barefoot to school.
The plan was to achieve his goal in 2018, but double amputees and those with severe vision loss were banned from climbing Everest after the number of deaths on the mountain’s peak.
But the ban only made Budha Magar more determined, he was part of a campaign to revoke the decision made by Nepal in 2017.
When he’s back home Budha Magar wants to go back to Afghanistan where he lost his legs so he can say “thank you”.
He said: “Without [losing my legs], I wouldn’t be climbing Everest, and it wouldn’t even count much. Whatever happens, it happens for good.”
[ Budha Magar left Nepal to serve as a corporal with the Ghurka regiment in the British army before his injury. ]