BHAKTAPUR, NEPAL - A Chinese climber who lost both legs to frostbite on Everest four decades ago is hoping to finally reach the summit after Nepal’s top court overruled a controversial government ban on blind and double amputee climbers.
Xia Boyu is the first double amputee to be given a permit to climb the world’s highest mountain after the ban was revoked.
The 69-year-old said the measure, introduced in December to much criticism, was “discriminating against the disabled.”
“I panicked after I heard the news because it meant I couldn’t fulfill my dream. I thought, ‘How can I now get a climbing permit?’ ” Xia said in an interview.
But last month, disability advocacy groups successfully overturned the ban in Nepal’s highest court, arguing it contravened the U.N. convention on the rights of people with disabilities.
Xia’s bid to summit the 8,848-meter (29,029-foot) mountain will be his fifth.
He was part of a Chinese national team in 1975 when the group encountered bad weather just below the summit.
Oxygen-starved and exposed to frigid temperatures, Xia suffered severe frostbite and lost both his feet.
In 1996, his legs were amputated just below the knee after he was diagnosed with lymphoma, a form of blood cancer.
The tenacious climber returned to Everest in 2014, but an avalanche killed 16 Sherpa guides early in the season, forcing most expeditions to call off their summit bids.
Xia was back the following year, but the climbing season was again cut short when a powerful earthquake struck Nepal, killing around 9,000 people — including 22 on Everest.
His last attempt was in 2016 when bad weather again forced him to turn back just 200 meters from the summit.
“Climbing Mount Everest is my dream. I have to realize it. It also represents a personal challenge, a challenge of fate,” Xia said.
Xia’s guide, Dawa Gyalje Sherpa — who has summited Everest eight times — is hopeful the plucky Chinese climber will finally make it to the top this time.
“He has been training and has climbed above 8,000 meters before,” Sherpa said.
“I am hopeful he will fulfill his dream.”
The legal wrangling over disabled climbers did scupper ex-soldier Hari Budha Magar’s bid to become the first above-the-knee double amputee to scale Everest.
Magar — a 38-year-old former Gurkha soldier who lost both his legs in Afghanistan — postponed his attempt and said he will return in 2019.
The only double amputee to summit Everest is New Zealander Mark Inglis, who achieved the feat in 2006.
Hundreds of climbers flock to Everest every year during the brief spring climbing season starting April, when winds and temperatures are more forgiving than other times of the year.
Last year, 634 people made it to the top and seven died trying.
Nepali and Chinese authorities, who monitor all climbs on the southern and northern faces of the mountain respectively, are yet to release the number of climbing permits issued for this year.
But the season — which marks the 65th anniversary of the first summit of Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay — is expected to be busy.