Double-amputee climber Hari Budha Magar, 43, speaks with the media ahead of his Mt. Everest expedition in Kathmandu, Nepal, 03 April 2023 (issued 04 April 2023). EFE/EPA/NARENDRA SHRESTHA

Nepalese double amputee aims to make history by summiting Everest

By Sangam Prasain

Double-amputee climber Hari Budha Magar, 43, displays his mountaineering gear before leaving for Mt. Everest in Kathmandu, Nepal, 03 April 2023 (issued 04 April 2023). EFE/EPA/NARENDRA SHRESTHA

Kathmandu, Apr 4 (EFE).- Hari Budha Magar, a former British soldier from Nepal who lost both legs in Afghanistan, seeks to become the first double amputee above the knee to climb Everest, overcoming not only his own limitations but also a series of legal and monetary hurdles.

Double-amputee climber Hari Budha Magar, 43, reacts while speaking with media members ahead of his Mt. Everest expedition in Kathmandu, Nepal, 02 April 2023 (issued 04 April 2023). EFE/EPA/NARENDRA SHRESTHA

“I will leave Kathmandu for the Everest region on Wednesday. The preparation is complete,” Magar, 43, told EFE, confident of reaching the summit of the world’s highest peak despite being three times slower than normal climbers due to his prosthetics.

“My push-up plan on the 8,848.86 meters-tall Everest is tentatively set for the first or second week of May, depending on the weather conditions,” said the former Gurkha soldier, whose life has been marked by war and conflict.

Born into a humble family in Mirul, a village in Rolpa district in northeastern Nepal, the former soldier recalled how as a child he had to walk barefoot 45 minutes to reach a school “where there were no pens or papers.”

Magar, forced to marry at the age of 11, found his education interrupted by the conflict between the Maoists and the state, a civil war that left more than 17,000 dead before ending in 2006.

His life changed when several recruits for the elite Gurkha regiment of the British Army visited his village in 1998, leading him to try his luck in the challenging selection tests.

The Gurkha regiment comprises of soldiers recruited from Nepal, known for their bravery and characterized by their curved “Khukri” knives.

Magar was the only one among 200 people to pass all three phases of the process, and joined the British corps at just 19 years.

However, his life turned upside down in 2010, when, during his deployment in Afghanistan, he lost both his legs above the knee in an IED explosion.

“Everything changed in a flash,” said Magar, who spent three years at a rehabilitation center in the United Kingdom, where he learned to rebuild his life around his handicap.

The loss of both limbs deeply impacted the former soldier. “I thought, my life is finished (…) I decided to commit suicide – multiple times. I started to drink too much. I became a drunkard.”

Eventually, Magar said his concern for the future of his wife and three children prevented him from taking his own life, although the former soldier only recovered after receiving a proposal for skydiving.

“I received a proposal for skydiving when I was in a suicidal mindset. I was over 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). I jumped. I was on the ground. I realized I can do everything that normal people can do,” he said.

It was the beginning of a passion for sports and adventure activities that led him to try skiing, kayaking and climbing, as well as wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby.

Magar became the first above-knee double amputee to scale the 6,476-meter Mera Peak in Nepali in 2017.

“Then Everest came into my mind,” he said, setting his sight on the peak first scaled by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa in 1953. “I want to show the world that disability is no barrier to achieving incredible things.”

However, the biggest obstacle to climbing the world’s highest peak was not his disability, but a 2017 law that banned double amputees and blind people from climbing activities in the Himalayas.

“We approached the Tourism Minister, the British and American ambassadors and many top bureaucrats. But no one listened to us,” he said.

Magar approached the justice system along with other disabled people, filing a writ in the Supreme Court, the highest judicial body, which ordered the suspension of the law in 2018.

Having overcome the legal obstacles, the former soldier made a huge effort to raise the almost $150,000 necessary for his expedition, with which to pay for customized equipment, hire sherpas and buy special prostheses for climbing, among other expenses.

“All my summit suites are personally designed. A summit suite and a sleeping bag costs more than 5,000 pounds,” he said, adding that his stubbies – foreshortened prosthesis usually made up of standard sockets – were invented by an American mountaineer in his garage.

Magar said he was now “fully prepared” for the ascent, after obtaining the required funds. He was earlier forced to put his ambitious plan on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m hoping to complete this mission successfully. But nothing is guaranteed,” said Magar. EFE