andrea lanfri mt. everest
Soon, Andrea Lanfri will start a Mt. Everest summit push; (photo/IlariaCarielloPhotography)

Multiple-Amputee Begins Quest for Everest Summit

It’s hard enough to summit Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen. The climbers who pull it off aren’t usually multiple-amputees.

In 2015, Andrea Lanfri lost both legs and seven fingers to a meningitis episode, which also caused meningococcal sepsis.

Now, he’s on his way up Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen.

Lanfri and his partner, International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (UIAGM) guide Luca Montanari, are poised to start a summit bid in the coming days.

Planetmountain reported the team completed its various acclimatization tasks — including summitting Lobuche East, a 20,000-foot peak in the Khumbu region, and climbing to Everest Camp 3 — by May 3.

After a rest, Lanfri and Montanari will push for the roof of the world.

“No Italian athlete with multiple amputations has ever attempted a climb above 8000 meters,” Lanfri told his sponsor, Italian outfitter Ferrino. “I will be the first one to reach this goal.”

Andrea Lanfri Survives Meningitis, Psyche Intact

Lanfri, 35, set his oxygenless Everest goal after surviving his illness.

“It’s a personal challenge that was born shortly after my disease when I started going to the mountains again. I had never thought about it before,” he said.

The seasoned mountaineer appeared healthy when the meningitis episode took him by surprise at 29. Diagnosed as fulminant meningitis, the disease threw him into a month-long coma in January 2015. Sepsis then forced the amputation of both legs below the knee.

Lanfri described his months in the hospital as “climbing the most difficult peak that can be found.” The accomplished mountaineer had summits of Punta Hiunchiuli (or Dhaulagiri VI) and Ecuador’s Chimborazo Volcano (6,268 m) under his belt.

“While I was in the hospital … I was strongly convinced that one day I would go back to doing the same things as before,” he later wrote. “It was a very long and painful period and after waking up from a coma, and following the various amputations, a great desire to run arose inside me, a desire without reason or logic, but only of instinct, a personal challenge against ‘fate,’ against the bacterium that wanted to stop me.”

He recovered with his adventurous spirit still intact. Two years and change after he woke up from his coma, Lanfri competed for Team Italy at the 2017 Paralympics in London as a runner. He helped the men’s 4x100m relay team take home the silver medal, and retired from Olympic competition by 2019.

He would stay busy. That same year, he and Montanari teamed up to climb Punta Hiunchiuli (or Dhaulagiri VI, 23,845 feet). In 2020, he summitted Mont Blanc (15,777 feet) with fellow para-climber Massimo Coda.

Running Shoes at 29,000 Feet?

On March 23, he flew to Kathmandu, Nepal, to start his Everest expedition. Asked about the special challenges a para-athlete faces in an arena like high-altitude mountaineering, Lanfri pointed to a mentality any climber could draw from.

andrea lanfri mt. everest
(Photo/IlariaCarielloPhotography)

“I never think about the impossible, at most I think I’m not ready for something. This applies to all athletes. It never occurred to me to say ‘I won’t do that because I have prostheses,’” he said.

“At most I think I have to prepare myself better than an able-bodied person, that I have to pay attention to other things. But everything is possible if you work and commit yourself.”

Will other climbers on the mountain double-take when they see him? Almost certainly — but not for the reasons you might think.

“[W]hen I have my high altitude suit on I challenge everyone to understand if I have legs or not. At most, some might be amazed to see that I wear trail running shoes at eight-thousand meters.” According to Ferrino, Lanfri gave the comment with a laugh.

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Sam Anderson
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Sam Anderson is a staff writer at GearJunkie, and several other All Gear websites.

He has been writing about climbing, cycling, running, wildlife, outdoor policy, the outdoor industry, vehicles, and more for 2 years. Prior to GearJunkie, he owned and operated his own business before freelancing at GearHungry. Based in Austin, Texas, Anderson loves to climb, boulder, road bike, trail run, and frequent local watering holes (of both varieties).