Last December, the Nepalese government wrote a new rule banning double amputees from obtaining permits to climb Everest. At the time, it seemed like it was the end of Chinese climber and amputee Xia Boyu’s decades-long quest to summit the world’s highest peak. But on Monday, that quest was realized.
Xia had tried to climb Everest 43 years ago, but was turned back by powerful storms. Pinned down in terribly cold weather, Xia suffered terrible frostbite damage to both of his feet, and they were removed by doctors once he came down from the mountain. Then, in 1996, complications from cancer claimed both of his his legs.
Undaunted, or at least, deeply committed, Xia nevertheless made plans to climb Everest in 2014-2015, only to be turned away by canceled climbing seasons after multiple disasters befell the Everest community. In 2016 he made another attempt on the mountain, but was again turned back, this time only two hundred meters from the peak.
When Nepal moved to ban amputees like Xia from Everest in the name of safety, it seemed hope was lost. “I was panicked when I heard the news,” he told Agence France-Press. “It meant I couldn’t fulfill my dream.”
But in early March, Nepal’s Supreme Court ruled the ban to be discriminatory. Suddenly, Xia had hope once again. He quickly organized another expedition—his fifth attempt—and returned to Everest’s approach from the Nepal side. “Climbing Mount Everest is my dream. I have to realize it,” Xia told AFP weeks ago before his attempt. “It also represents a personal challenge, a challenge of fate.”
On Monday morning, Xia finally reached the summit, along with a team of Sherpas. Xia is the first double amputee to reach Everest’s peak from the Nepal route; a fellow double amputee from New Zealand named Mark Inglis summited from the Tibet route in 2006.
Though several hundred more people will attempt to climb Everest before the season concludes later this month, Xia’s journey will surely be a highlight.
Photo courtesy Xia Boyu