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Meet Hari Budha Magar, double amputee who summitted Mount Everest

Hari Budha Magar was born in the foothills of the Himalayas. Growing up in Nepal, surrounded by mountains and constantly seeing Mount Everest in textbooks and local media, he thought of climbing it one day.

But school keeps him busy, then at 19, he leaves his country to join a Gurkha unit in the British army. He saw and skied through mountain ranges all over the world on his missions and travels, but he was “always thinking about Everest all the time”, he said in an interview.

Those bucket-list plans to climb the world’s tallest peak were complicated by an explosion in Afghanistan in 2010 that left Budha Magar with above-knee amputations on both of her legs. But after years of preparation — and delays due to the coronavirus pandemic and a rule that was meant to keep people with certain physical disabilities off the mountain – Budha Magar made history Friday by becoming the first double above-the-knee amputee to summit the 29,000ft summit.

“Sometimes the things I’m describing don’t seem real,” Budha Magar, 43, said of the excursion in a video call from a tent at an Everest base camp, panning of the camera to show the rocky terrain covered in snow. covered in fog.

Budha Magar was part of a 12-person team led by Krishna Thapa, another Gurkha veteran. The couple served together in the army for three years and were reunited in 2016 while Thapa was planning an expedition to Everest.

“What do you think? I don’t have legs,” Thapa recalled, asking Budha Magar. “Do you think it’s possible that I can climb Everest?”

“We can only try,” Thapa replied.

Budha Magar began a years-long training regimen as the pair made meticulous plans for the historic attempt. But a roadblock came in 2017, when the Nepalese government banned blind people and double amputees from climbing Everest in a bid to reduce the death toll on the mountain. The rules have been criticized as harmful to people with disabilities, and Budha Magar and disability advocates have lobbied against the ban. Nepal’s Supreme Court overturned the decision in 2018, clearing the way for Budha Magar’s expedition.

An often overcrowded Everest has reopened to climbers. Some question the decision.

After acclimating to the altitude and the snowy, windy environment of base camp, the team intended to begin the journey to the summit on April 17 – exactly 13 years after the explosion in Afghanistan that took Budha Magar’s legs – but bad weather delayed them for weeks. . Conditions this year were particularly difficult, Thapa said. (At least 10 people died on the mountain in 2023, according to reports.)

Unpredictable wind – despite having access to three separate weather forecasting tools – and conditions such as sleet also proved challenging. “The snow was soft,” said Budha Magar, “and I had no knees to lift.”

Budha Magar said there were times when he wanted to give up, and Thapa said there were a few times when he thought they couldn’t move on. But they persisted.

“Hari kept surprising me,” Thapa said.

They reached the summit around 3:10 p.m. Friday, only spending a few minutes at the top due to the harsh conditions. At the top, Budha Magar said her tears – tears of joy – froze on her cheek. Some team members had to reach for more oxygen on the descent, and Budha Magar was so exhausted that he slid on the back for part of it. (His snowsuit was torn.)

Budha Magar, who lives in Canterbury, England, said her 10-year-old son was particularly worried about him attempting the climb. “I promised myself, ‘I’ll come back for you. I’m not going to die up there,'” he said.

How Mount Everest’s Popularity Turned Fatal

The Nepalese government struggled to prevent deaths and overcrowding on Everest – traffic jams became so bad that people died there – as hundreds of ambitious adventurers flocked to the mountain.

Many Nepalese believe people with disabilities were sinners in their past lives, said Budha Magar.

“I wanted to show that people with disabilities can have happy, successful and meaningful lives,” he said. “Our handicap may be our weakness, but we can do many other things.”


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