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A 69 year-old double amputee reached the summit of Mount Everest from the Nepal side on Monday morning, on his fifth attempt to climb the world’s highest peak.
Chinese national Xia Boyu reached the summit at 8:26 am Nepal time, according to a post by his son Cloud Xia on the Chinese messaging platform WeChat.
“My Dad reached Everest at 8:26 Nepal time!!! Has realized his 40 years dream!!!” Cloud Xia wrote.
Xia senior lost both of his legs below the knee amputated after suffering frostbite in a failed Everest expedition when he was just 25. He is now reportedly descending the mountain.
He is being guided by Mingma G. Sherpa, a veteran Nepalese mountaineer, who successfully climbed the world’s 14 highest mountains on first attempt. An additional 11 Sherpas are providing support.
“I love the mountain,” Xia told TIME prior to his climb, “I will fight for it my entire life.”
Xia’s success casts fresh light on the Nepalese government’s failed attempt to ban certain groups of climbers from the mountain.
In an effort to improve safety, and to halt overcrowding on Everest, the government last December issued a ban on climbers who are disabled, blind, below the age of 16, or intending to climb solo. An outcry ensued, and Hari Budha Magar, a former Royal Gurkha Rifles soldier and a double amputee, launched a legal action, citing a violation of the United Nations’ convention. In response, the Supreme Court put the ban under temporary review, creating a window for Xia to make his attempt.
Xia lost his legs after his first attempt on Everest in 1975, when he was part of the Chinese Mountaineering Team, after he lent a teammate his sleeping bag.
He previously attempted Everest in 2014, 2015, and 2016. In 2014, climbing season was cancelled due to an avalanche. His attempt in 2015 was also cancelled following a 7.8 earthquake that shook Nepal and triggered more avalanches on the mountain. In 2016, Xia got to within 300 feet of the summit when a blizzard forced him to retreat.
New Zealander climber Mark Inglis was the first double amputee to ever summit Everest from the Tibet side in 2006. Santiago Quintero, a climber from Ecuador who is missing parts of both his feet and listed as a double amputee in the Himalayan Database, summited from the Nepal side in 2013. In 2017, Jeff Glasbrenner, an American single amputee, summited in 2017.
Over 500 climbers from 38 different expeditions are attempting Everest this season, according to the Himalayan Times.