Forty-three years, five tries, and two surgeries later – including a double leg amputation – 69-year-old Xia Boyu finally summited the world’s highest mountain on Monday.
Making it to the top at about 8:30 a.m., Xia became just the third double-amputee to conquer Mt. Qomolangma (also known as Mt. Everest elsewhere in the world).
Standing at the peak, Xia’s voice trembled as he recorded his accomplishment: "I am finally standing at the top of Mt. Everest, which I have been dreaming about for 41 years."
Though Xia exclaimed he had been waiting for over four decades, his first attempt to scale the mountain was in 1975 as part of a group of 20 Chinese climbers. About 200 meters from the top, they were forced to turn back due to storms.
The harsh conditions during the descent resulted in severe frostbite in Xia’s legs, forcing doctors to amputate both feet at the age of 26.
Two decades later, he would also lose his legs after a lymphoma diagnosis. He would later adjust to living with prosthetic limbs.
Xia Boyu / CCTV photo
Xia Boyu / CCTV photo
It was after the double amputation of his legs that he decided to recommit to his goal. "I have experienced a lot since I lost my feet and suffered from cancer. It's my dream that supports me to this very day. My dream helps me survive, " said Xia.
He made three separate attempts to reach the top of the 8,848-meter mountain between 2014 and 2016, but nature thwarted all three.
Avalanches obstructed their path in 2014. The trip in the following year was abandoned after the devastating Nepal earthquake. Xia was nearly 100 meters away from the top in 2016 when severe weather threatened the group’s safety, forcing another turnaround.
This year’s trip almost never happened – not due to nature – but to a controversial law that banned double amputees and blind people from climbing Mt. Qomolangma. Citing safety concerns, Nepal's government claimed it would make summiting the mountain safer.
Xia’s chances were renewed when Nepal’s supreme court stayed the order in March, noting that it was discriminatory.
Weather reports say that it was clear on Monday morning, when Xia finally realized his dream of climbing the world’s highest mountain.