What’s your excuse for not making it to the top? Hari Budha Magar’s not making any. The Nepalese mountaineer and Gurkha regiment veteran, who lost both legs above the knee on active duty in 2010, just summitted Mount Everest.
It’s the first time anyone with his disability (double above the knee amputation) has done it, and he frames the accomplishment as a message of perseverance.
“My lifetime goal is to change the perceptions people have of disability. My life changed in a blink of an eye. But whatever happens, you can still lead a fulfilling life,” he said in a video after the ascent, per the Associated Press.
Magar was serving as a Gurkha Corporal in Afghanistan when tragedy struck in the form of an improvised explosive device. And though he admitted he’s survived through dark days, his resulting condition hasn’t stopped him from exuding positivity.
Magar secured his groundbreaking summit of Everest late in the afternoon of May 19, 2023, marking the beginning of week of historical firsts for climbers with disabilities on Everest. (The first American team of Deaf climbers summitted May 22, and the first blind climber from Mexico reached the top on May 23.)
It’s just the latest episode in an ambitious mountaineering career. He’s also ticked the Himalayan peaks of Mera (21,247 feet) and Choubkal Far East (19,833 feet), Mont Blanc, and many others.
But Everest pushed him to the brink. On two prosthetic legs, Magar needed extra time to cover ground. He would require not only that but also more oxygen than the typical Everest climber.
This led to multiple complications. As the AP reported, he once ran out of oxygen and had to briefly swap masks with a climbing partner. And by the time he summited in the late afternoon, the weather on the 29,032-foot peak had turned ugly.
The journey from Camp 4 to the summit and back lasted 25 hours, he reported on Instagram. And because he has a family to think about, he almost gave up the summit bid multiple times.
“I had made the promise that I will have to return for the sake of my son,” he explained to the AP.
In the record books, Magar joins Mark Inglis. He became the first double amputee (below the knee) to climb Everest in 2006.
It may be hard to fathom climbing Everest with multiple amputations; almost every climber can relate to Magar’s arc on the mountain. He shared a brief moment of elation on the summit with his Sherpas (“I hugged all the Sherpas and cried like a baby, I was so happy,” he told the AP), but now it’s back to work.
Magar also utilizes his mountaineering to raise money for multiple charities. His Everest expedition will collect funds for five groups that benefit limbless veterans, outdoor sports for military personnel, Gurkha veterans, and more.
Not bad for a guy who was born in a cowshed, as his website puts it.
“I believe that one person can change the world with the help of others. I will do everything I can to make the world a slightly better place,” he said via Instagram. “The mission doesn’t end here, it’s just beginning.”