Hari Budha Magar, a British veteran made history on 19th May 2023 by reaching the summit of the tallest mountain in the world as the first above-the-knee amputee to accomplish such a feat.
The British veteran conquered the summit of Everest on Friday afternoon at around 3 pm. Having lost both of his lower legs after stepping on an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in Afghanistan in 2010, this amazing feat made a huge splash across the world.
Breaking the Stigma
The current resident of Canterbury, Kent, Hari Budha Magar set out on the conquest of Everest to break the stigma and inspire the differently-abled people across the globe. He believed with the right opportunities even they could do wonders like any other.
After the above-the-knee amputation of both of his legs, the veteran felt that his life was completely finished. He struggled with depression and alcoholism after the incident, growing up in Nepal, Budha Magar had first-hand experience with how differently-abled people were treated in the remote villages.
The notion that still many believe, disability is a sin of previous life and differently-abled people are a burden to the earth. Having grown up witnessing the treatment first-hand, the British veteran started to believe those notions.
At a point, he started just drawing himself into alcohol to cope with the pain and the overwhelming emotions. He was even driven to the point where because of depression, he tried to take his own life a few times. However, after participating in a range of sports and adventurous activity switch the military charities, the British veteran got his mojo back and gave up drinking.
Krishna Thapa, another Gurkha Veteran who lead the 12-person expedition to Everest had served 3 years together in the army with Budha Magar. After reuniting in 2016, when Thapa was planning an expedition to Everest, the British veteran decided to tag along.
Thus, began the years-long training regiment of the duo to conquer the top of Everest and break the stigma that limited the differently abled people.
Everest Conquest- A Childhood Dream
Hari Budha Magar had dreamt of conquering the peaks of Everest during the time when he was walking to school barefoot. The Gurkha veteran at the age of 19, left Nepal to join as a corporal in the Gurkha regiment of the British army.
Although he flew over mountain ranges across the world during his mission, his childhood dream of conquering the highest peak in the world was on his mind all the time.
But, after the tragic incident, his Everest expedition plans were starting to seem like a far-fetched dream. Until he met his army companion- Krishna Thapa.
After reuniting in 2016, when the fellow Gurkha-veteran Thapa was planning an expedition to Everest, Hari Budha Magar asked him if he could climb Everest without legs.
In response Thapa replied,
“We can only try”
Then, began the year-long training regiment of the duo to make history.
Although the duo had initially planned the historic attempt for 2018, Nepal’s Government set out new policies banning the blind and double amputees from climbing Everest to reduce the fatalities rates.
Luckily, the Supreme Court issued an order to the government to lift the ban in March 2018 which cleared the way for Hari Budha and Krishna Thapa’s historic attempt.
Poor Weather and Struggle at the Top
Hari Budha Magar arrived at Everest on 17th April exactly 13 years after the incident in Afghanistan where he lost his legs in 2010. But, the journey to the top wasn’t imminent, the British veteran had to wait 18 days at the Everest base camp for the weather to be more stable.
The extreme freezing condition even after waiting for 18 days was a tough challenge to overcome for a historic feat. The weather conditions were even harsher than in other years according to Thapa, the treacherous path of Everest has already claimed the life of at least 10 climbers in 2023.
Thus challenge bar was pretty high in comparison to other years’ weather conditions. Even with the three different weather forecasting tools, the forecasting wasn’t accurate. Even the slushy snow report was soft, which was hard, especially on Budha Magar who didn’t have knees to lift up.
His specially designed prosthetic legs to cope with the freezing environment in Everest with heating socks was certainly a great help in the quest. In a statement made to the PA news agency, Budha Magar’s jackets were completely frozen, even the water they put in the Thermos was frozen and they were not able to drink from it.
Despite wanting to give up a couple of times, the duo persisted and kept pushing forward, finally claiming the summit at around 3:10 p.m. on Friday.
Hero’s Welcome in Kathmandu
After spending only a few minutes at the summit due to harsh weather, which literally froze Budha Magar’s happy tears on his cheeks they began the commence. However, it wasn’t a smooth ride home either.
The British veteran had left 30-40 minutes of oxygen and they still had to cover the distance of 2-3 hours to get down. So, he slid down on his back which ripped his snow suit while the other expeditors came up with the oxygen.
Fulfilling his promise to his 10-year-old son to return safely, Hari Budha Magar received a hero’s welcome at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) on Tuesday, 23rd May 2023.
A huge crowd of people swarmed over the international airport to welcome the British veteran who made the historic record. Sudan Kirati, Minister for Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation, also made a presence at the welcome event.
The traditional attire and the musical instruments made the event even more grand.