The pinnacle of determination and courageDouble amputee Everest summiteer Hari Budha Magar becomes an inspiration for people in Nepal and globally
On 23 May, hundreds gathered at Kathmandu airport to greet Hari Budha Magar who created history as the world’s first double above-knee amputee to summit Everest, becoming an ultimate icon of hope and courage.
“We made it!” Magar, 45, is said to have shouted as he made it to the summit of the world’s highest mountain at 3:10PM on 19 May. Magar posed for a photo sitting on the top holding his two prosthetic legs.
Mt Everest, even in the most favorable of weather conditions, poses extreme challenges for the best of climbers. Till press time on Thursday, nearly 500 mountaineers had made it to the top, while 11 lost their lives on the mountain.
Magar climbed with the help of fellow-Nepali high altitude guides in extreme weather, defying all the odds and breaking stereotypes. The former British Gurkha soldier has since received much praise from the world over for his exceptional achievement.
After losing his legs in a mine explosion in Afghanistan in 2010, Magar fell into hopelessness before his ambitions for the great mountains reignited. Before long, he went paragliding, ventured onto tough roads cycling and skiing, and climbed mountains with his prosthetic legs.
Eventually, he set his eyes on Everest. And led by former Chief Mountain Instructor at the British SAS commando unit, and world-renowned climber Krish Thapa, the team crossed the treacherous Khumbu Icefall paths from Base Camp to the South Col and onto the summit.
‘Congratulations, Hari Budha Magar. Unbelievable,’ wrote British actor Tom Hardy on his Instagram following the climb. Indeed, the publicity he has generated has now become an unprecedented source of inspiration, especially for individuals with disabilities, not just in Nepal but worldwide.
Says Magar: “I am climbing Mt Everest to inspire people with disabilities, to show that we can achieve the same feats as able-bodied people.”
Since the first successful ascent in 1953 by Tenzing Norgay Sherpa and Edmund Hillary, up until 2022 a total of 6,383 people have reached the summit. The proportion of individuals with physical disabilities is only 20, two of whom are Nepalis.
Born in the secluded village of Mirul in Rolpa, Magar spend much of his life grazing cattle on a hilltop from where he would view Sisne Himal and Dhaulagiri every day, igniting in him an early fascination with mountains and a longing to climb them someday.
In adherence to village tradition, his parents got him married at the age of 11 while Rolpa was in the war zone during the Maoist conflict. Magar had two distinct choices: either join the Maoist militia or the state military.
Magar’s father charted a third route by sending him to Liwang municipality to complete his education. After completing school, Magar was among the few to be enrolled in the British Royal Gurkha Rifles in 1999.
He served in the British Army for 15 years in five continents. In 2010, in Afghanistan's Helmand province he was on NATO patrol when he was hit by a roadside bomb. But the time he regained consciousness in hospital, both his legs had been amputated.
Coming to terms with his disability was an uphill challenge, the very thought of having to rely on someone else even for the simplest acts like eating, sleeping, and using the restroom had him depressed. He descended into alcoholism and despair.
Magar got himself admitted to Rakshya Medical Rehabilitation Centre for rehabilitation, and soon discovered new possibilities with his prosthetic leg. He started finding solace in adventure, and started out by learning to paraglide. .
“This restored hope in me that even a person with a disability can accomplish great things,” says Magar, who then turned to his childhood dream of mountaineering. He travelled around the world to build up his climbing skills and stamina, climbing Mount Blanc (4,810m), Kilimanjaro (5,895m), Cho Oyu (6,059m) and Mera Peak (6,476m), all of which were preparations for his ultimate goal, Mt Everest.
By 2018, Magar was all prepared but Tourism Ministry imposed a ban on individuals with disabilities, citing safety concerns. Dissatisfied with this decision, Magar filed a writ petition in Nepal’s Supreme Court which ruled in his favour.
Then the Covid-19 pandemic delayed the climb, and he used the time to prepare. Magar is now an icon of the triumph of the human spirit. He says: “Dreams and challenges may seem unattainable, but with the right mindset, everything is possible.”
Adapted by Shrijan Pandey from the Nepali original published in himalkhabar.com