SPECIAL NOTE: SO WHAT IS SO SPECIAL ABOUT THIS DOUBLE EMPUTEE? He is 69 years old and he finally succeeded in reaching the peak of the highest mountain in the world…what an inspiration to all of us who find it difficult at times to achieve a simple task with our use of our legs and hands, etc…what if we have lost our legs? Imagin trying to achieve the impossible, like climbing a mountain, not to say the top of the highest mountain in the world…this man did and I wish I could do it too…Read the story and share it with you friends around the world…Steve, China, May 28
CHINESE DOUBLE amputee summits Qomolangma after four decades of failed attempts
By Xu Ming Source:Global Times Published: 2018/5/17
The moment that Xia Boyu dreamed about for 43 years finally arrived when the 69-year-old double amputee climber declared to the world – and, most importantly, to himself – that he made it to the top of Qomolangma.
“On May 14, 2018, I finally stand on the peak of Qomolangma!” Xia excitedly declared in a phone call with his team.
Following the sounds of gongs and drums coming from base camp at the bottom of the mountain, Xia’s worried wife cut in on the call to congratulate him, also saying “Be careful and come back to camp safe and sound.”
The 1-minute-37-second recording, made by Ke Qingfeng, Xia’s main team member, who shared it with the Global Times, marks a historical moment for Xia, who became the first Chinese double amputee climber in history to summit Qomolangma, the highest mountain in the world by elevation at 8,848 meters.
Xia waited for this moment for 43 years after losing both of his feet to frostbite while climbing Qomolangma for the first time in 1975.
Over the past 43 years, Xia has suffered amputations and battled cancer, but he never stopped training for his next climb. His perseverance has led many to regard him and his story a Chinese version of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.
A sharp turn
“More than 40 years have passed! It’s been so hard!” Xia murmured in the emotional recording as he stood atop Qomolangma.
Xia toiled up Qomolangma over the course of seven days to make it this time, becoming the first Chinese to rely on artificial limbs to climb the infamous peak.
This was Xia Boyu’s fifth attempt to summit Qomolangma. Before that, he tried four times but failed for different reasons.
“[Like every time], this time we all tried our best. While weather affects us the most, this time we put into use a temporary campsite, 8,400 meters above the sea level, for when the weather turned bad, which helped decrease the distance to the top,” Ke said of Xia’s successful summit.
“But all in all, it is Xia’s perseverance in painstaking training and his dream that finally got him there,” Ke told the Global Times.
A former football player originally from Northwest China’s Qinghai Province, Xia was selected into China’s national mountaineering team in 1974 and started to climb Qomolangma the following year. When the team arrived 8,600 meters above sea level, the weather worsened, forcing them to retreat down to 7,600 meters for a rest.
That night, an exhausted Tibetan member of the team lost his sleeping bag. Xia, who was 26 years-old at the time and in good physical condition, lent his sleeping bag to his Tibetan teammate while he himself slept directly on the frozen ground. It was a selfless decision that permanently changed Xia’s life.
The next day, Xia’s feet were diagnosed with severe frostbite. A double amputation was required. Xia thought his life was doomed until he met a Japanese expert who told him that, with artificial limbs, he could continue to climb the mountain.
Xia Boyu arrives in Nepal ahead of the climb. Photo: VCG
A hard bone
After Xia’s passion to climb mountains was reignited, he started to train himself, even though he was still on the hospital sickbed.
“Qomolangma, you frostbit my feet to stop me from climbing? I am a stubborn one. I will strive to climb it again, even without feet!” Xia said, as quoted in media reports.
The following “devil training” that has lasted for 43 years, which started at 5 am every day, included 180 sit-ups (loaded with 5 kilograms) and 360 push-ups daily. He hiked up Beijing’s Fragrance Hill every two days, showered only in cold water even in the winter and stopped drinking hot water.
He spent three years in physical therapy learning to stand up again with his artificial new feet. During his recovery from his amputation operation, Xia’s bones required being “scraped” repeatedly in order to regenerate. Despite the unbearable pain, he asked the doctor to do it without any anesthesia, because anesthesia would make him feel weak and lazy and interfere with his daily training.
During this period, a young woman was moved by his strong will and visited him in the hospital, who later became his wife.
As a test of his skills and strength after the strenuous training, Xia has participated in games for the disabled since 1980s and has won more than 20 medals both at home and abroad.
But the worse was yet to come. In 1993, Xia was forced to have one-third of his lower legs removed after years of intense sports had destroyed them.
Three years later, Xia was diagnosed with lymphoma. He almost gave up his dream under the tremendous pain brought about by the chemotherapy, but his wife reminded him of the strenuous efforts he had already made for the dream and encouraged him to go on.
At that time, the dream to summit Qomolangma was the only thing that kept Xia focused. He told media that he would have collapsed long ago if he had stopped thinking about climbing the mountain again.
Getting closer everyday
In 2012, Xia climbed 7,509-meter Muztagata, in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, in preparation for his final goal. He had not climbed any mountains in decades and needed to practice on real mountains in order to test his artificial limbs.
Using artificial limbs requires one to consume at least an additional one-third of their body strength than usual, as Xia explained to media earlier. It was very common for him to fall down when climbing, and his legs easily abraded from the intense activity. Every time he fell, he had to kneel on the ground and stand up again using both legs and both arms.
In 2013, just three months before departing for Qomolangma, Xia suffered from a fall. In 2014, he managed to reach Qomolangma base camp, but bad news came that 16 Sherpas (an ethnic group living along the two sides of the Himalaya Mountains who often serve as guides in the climbs) had just died in an avalanche; all climbing was canceled for the rest of the year.
In 2015, Xia’s next attempt was canceled due to an earthquake in Nepal. In 2016, when Xia was just 94 meters from Qomolangma’s summit, a storm forced him to retreat.
Throughout the years, Xia’s perseverance has turned him into a nationwide idol and a symbol of the spirit of determination. Ke said that he hopes Xia’s success will inspire self-empowerment and enlightenment among more ordinary people, particularly the younger generations.
Xia once said that if not for his dream, he might have lived an average life like anyone else. But when asked if he could make the same decision again to lend his sleeping bag to others, he said, “I might hesitate if knowing the consequence. After all, I’m an ordinary guy.”