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Amputee veteran eyes Everest summit: ‘No legs, no limits’
Published on: Wednesday, April 19, 2023
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Amputee veteran eyes Everest summit: ‘No legs, no limits’
Magar speaks during an interview with AFP in Kathmandu.
KATHMANDU: Gurkha veteran Hari Budha Magar grew up in the shadow of the Himalayas, but only after losing his legs did he resolve to make his childhood dream of scaling Everest a reality.

Magar, 43, stepped on an improvised explosive device in 2010 while serving in Afghanistan with the Brigade of Gurkhas – a unit of Nepalis recruited into the British Army.

After years of rehabilitation and training, next month he plans to summit the world’s highest mountain, an endeavour promoted on his website under the slogan “no legs, no limits”.

If successful, the expedition will make him the first double above-the-knee amputee to see the world from the 8,849-metre (29,032-foot) peak.

“After losing both of my legs, my aim became to see what I could do physically. It opened my mind, and I attempted everything I could put my hands on,” Magar told AFP before setting off for the Everest base camp.

Magar grew up in Nepal, in the foothills of the Himalayan mountain range, and was always drawn to adventure sports. “When I would ski, the sight of the mountains would remind me of Everest. I would always wonder if I could climb,” he said.

Two below-the-knee amputees have reached the peak in the past – New Zealander Mark Inglis in 2006 and China’s Xia Boyu in 2018.

Magar began preparing for his own expedition the same year as Xia’s ascent.  But he was forced to put his training on hold to campaign against a since-revoked Nepal law that banned climbers with disabilities on safety grounds.

He climbs wearing a specially designed suit and grips attached to shortened prosthetics, with silicon liners under his thighs to prevent frostbite.

Magar finally feels ready for the monumental task ahead after successful summits of Nepal’s Mera Peak (6,476 metres) and the highest peak in the Alps, Mont Blanc (4,808 metres).

“There have been many difficulties, but finally everything is coming together for my dream,” he said. His expedition has echoes of the first-ever summit of Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, news of which reached the United Kingdom on the day of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. It is a happy coincidence for Magar that his summit coincides with next month’s crowning of King Charles III, almost 70 years later, giving him an opportunity to honour the country he served in battle.

“That’s the crown I fought for. That’s the crown I lost my legs for,” he said. Magar wears shorts everywhere, even in the chilly Himalayan weather, to proudly flaunt his prosthetic legs – but it took him a long time to come to terms with his injury. “I thought my life was over, I thought I would have to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair,” he said. The father of three felt suicidal and developed a drinking problem before the thought of his children’s futures forced him to re-evaluate his own.

“My main aim is to raise awareness about disability. Because if I was aware, I wouldn’t waste two years of my life, I would have made good use of it,” he said. Magar said he wanted to show that people with disabilities can do anything, but there is “just a different way of doing things”.

“As long as you can adapt your life according to the time and the situation, we can do anything we want. There is no limit, the sky is the limit,” he said. Magar’s guide, Krishna Thapa, is confident the expedition will succeed. “He is a great mountaineer... he has six years of preparation and several records,” he told AFP. “None of the other climbers have that.”

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