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Double Amputee Summits Everest Decades After Losing Feet In Failed Attempt

Mount Everest towers over the landscape miles northeast of Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, last month.
Prakash Mathema
AFP/Getty Images
Mount Everest towers over the landscape miles northeast of Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, last month.

It was roughly 43 years ago that Xia Boyu made his first attempt to scale Mount Everest. The Chinese climber had been in his mid-20s, serving in an expedition that came close to the peak before it unraveled under the force of high-altitude storms.

Xia lost his feet to frostbite during that ill-fated effort. Two decades later, he would also lose both legs beneath the knee to lymphoma. But all the while, the double amputee held onto his dream of returning to — and conquering — Everest.

And on Monday, Xia finally achieved that dream. Xia, his fellow team members and the Sherpas supporting them summited the mountain early in the morning, according to Imagine Trek and Expedition, the group leading the effort.

He is at least the second double amputee climber to summit Everest, after New Zealand's Mark Inglis achieved that feat in 2006.

But at the start of the year, it appeared the moment would never come for Xia. Shortly before the New Year, Nepal's government sought to ban double amputees, along with solo and blind climbers, from scaling all of the mountains within its borders unless they could obtain a doctor's written permission.

As NPR's Lauren Frayer reported at the time, the new regulations were intended "to keep people safe and also to create jobs for local guides and Sherpas" — but those rules were tossed just months later by Nepal's high court for discriminating against people with disabilities.

After the ruling, Xia wasted no time arranging another attempt — his fourth in about five years, according to Agence-France Presse. The news agency reports that canceled climbing seasons stymied his plans in 2014 and 2015, and that he came within 200 meters of the summit in 2016, before "bad weather forced him to turn back."

In the meantime, avalanchesand deadly accidents made for a steady stream of grim news from the mountain.

Still, shortly before heading back to Everest base camp last month for a fifth try, he told AFP that nothing had changed for him.

"Climbing Mount Everest is my dream. I have to realise it," he said. "It also represents a personal challenge, a challenge of fate."

Now, obstinate fate finally relented before that determination.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.
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