Gurkha veteran Hari Budha Magar lost both his legs in Afghanistan while serving with the British Army. Though maimed, Magar was never defeated. On Friday, the 43-year-old successfully soldiered up the world’s tallest mountain.
Two double amputees have previously climbed to the top of Mount Everest in the Mahalangur Himal sub-range of the Himalayas: Mark Inglis of New Zealand in 2006 and Xia Boyu of China in 2018. Magar is, however, the first person with above-the-knee amputations to have successfully summited the peak.
The Guardian reported that Magar, a father of three, left his native Nepal to serve as a corporal in the Gurkha regiment in the British Army. The Gurkha soldiers, whose motto is “Better to die than be a coward,” are known for carrying their 18-inch kukri knife into battle even to this day.
After losing his legs to an improvised explosive device in 2010, Magar had figured his life was “completely finished.”
“I grew up in Nepal, up to age of 19, and I saw how the disabled people were treated in those remote village,” said Magar. “Many people still think that disability is a sin of previous life and you are the burden of the earth. I believed this myself because that is what I saw. That is how I grew up.”
The veteran, who now lives in Canterbury, England, battled alcoholism and depression after the explosion. Nevertheless, Magar persevered.
The veteran, whose motto has been “no legs, no limits,” eventually helped strike down a ban on both double amputees and blind people climbing Everest, thereby ensuring he would have a chance at simultaneously surmounting nature and his injuries.
The BBC reported that Magar, hoping to “inspire others” and “change perceptions on disability,” set off on May 6 with a team of Nepalese climbers, lead by Krish Thapa, a fellow Gurkha veteran and British special forces mountain troop leader.
According to Magar’s Twitter account, he “stood victorious” atop Everest around 3 p.m. on May 19, noting, “Disability is no barrier to reaching the 8,849 metre peak.”
Magar told his team down below via satellite phone, “That was tough. Harder than I could have ever imagined.”
“We just had to carry on and push for the top, no matter how much it hurt or how long it take,” said Magar. “If I can climb to the top of the world, then anyone, regardless of their disability, can achieve their dream. No matter how big your dreams, no matter how challenging your disability, with the right mindset anything is possible.”
The former soldier indicated that when things got particularly tough climbing the mountain, where temperatures can plunge to -117.4°F and winds can gust around 175 mph, he thought about his family and everyone who helped him get onto the mountain.
“As long as you can adapt your life according to the time and the situation, we can do anything we want,” stressed Magar.
Since returning safely to base camp, Magar has redirected his energies to raising money for five veterans’ charities. The climber is expected back in Kathmandu on Monday.
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