The first above-the-knee double amputee to climb Everest returned from the mountain on Tuesday pledging to dedicate the rest of his life to helping people with disabilities.
Hari Budha Magar, a former Gurkha soldier living in Britain, summited the world’s tallest mountain last week.
“My main goal for the rest of my life will be to work to raise awareness of disability,” Magar said upon his return to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal.
As a soldier in a British Army Gurkha regiment, Magar lost both legs in Afghanistan when he accidentally stepped on an improvised explosive device in 2010.
Hundreds of well-wishers and officials, including Nepal’s tourism minister, greeted him at Kathmandu airport and presented him with garlands.
He was picked up from the airport in an open truck decorated with flowers and waved at people along the way.
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“We all have our weaknesses and disabilities, but instead of weaknesses we should focus on our strength, and only then can we all lead better and meaningful lives,” she said.
He said the climb of the 29,032-foot mountain was not easy and he repeatedly thought about quitting because of his family.
“I made a promise that I would have to come back for my son’s sake,” she said.
On his way to the summit he ran out of oxygen in the tank he was carrying.
“This was the first time I experienced what it’s like to be deprived of oxygen. I had a tingling sensation, my hands and feet were cold, and I was out of breath,” she said.
He was able to get more oxygen from his climbing partners but then struggled with bad weather as he approached the summit, which he reached in the late afternoon due to his slow pace. Most climbers try to summit in the morning as conditions become dangerous later in the day.
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He said he saw rescuers dragging the bodies of two dead climbers along the road.
After his successful climb, “I hugged all the Sherpas and cried like a baby, I was so happy,” Magar said in a video released by his press office. “My life’s goal is to change people’s perception of disability. My life changed in the blink of an eye. But no matter what, you can still lead a fulfilling life.”
“If an above-the-knee double amputee can climb Everest, you can climb any mountain you tackle, as long as you’re disciplined, work hard, and put your all into it,” he said.
Magar was born in a remote mountain village in Nepal and was later recruited by the British Army as a Gurkha. He now lives with his family in Canterbury, England.
Hundreds of young Nepalese are recruited each year to work as Gurkha soldiers, known for their fighting skills and bravery.
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Besides dealing with his own disabilities, Magar also had to contend with legal problems because the government of Nepal had banned disabled people from climbing high mountains. A case was filed in the Supreme Court, which overturned the ban, allowing Magar to continue his plan to climb Everest.
During the coronavirus pandemic, the government halted mountaineering, further delaying Magar’s plan.