Kathmandu, Nepal – A former Gurkha soldier who lost both his legs in Afghanistan hit out Tuesday at new rules by the Nepal government that ban double amputees from climbing its mountains, dashing his Everest dreams.
Hari Budha Magar, 38, had been training hard in hopes of becoming the first above-the-knee double amputee to scale Mount Everest until his plans were scuppered by the law introduced in December.
The rules ban double amputee and blind climbers, a move that has drawn criticism from disability rights groups around the world.
Magar slammed the new rules as “unfair” and “discriminatory”.
“I agree that the government needs to bring rules to minimise risks but such ban is not the answer,” he told AFP.
Magar lost his legs after he was hit by an improvised explosive device while serving with the Brigade of Gurkhas — a unit of Nepalis recruited into the British army — in Afghanistan in 2010.
His legs were amputated above the knee and he had to learn how to walk using prosthetics.
Magar wears specially designed crampons attached to shortened prosthetics to climb, and has successfully summited Nepal’s Mera Peak as well as the highest peak in the Alps, Mont Blanc.
The father of three, who wears shorts regardless of the weather to show off his titanium legs, was on a training expedition in remote central Nepal when he heard about the ban.
“I had heard rumours but didn’t think it would happen. I was very surprised and shocked,” he said.
Magar grew up in the foothills of the Himalayas in western Nepal and describes summiting Everest as a childhood dream.
He has been lobbying the Nepal government to have the ban overturned and is confident he will succeed, paving the way for him to attempt Everest in 2019.
“The law could have instead looked into what safety measures such people can take for mountaineering. But you cannot ban and discriminate against anyone like that,” said Sudarshan Subedi, president of Nepal’s National Federation of the Disabled, which has been supporting Magar in talks with the government.
The World Blind Union, which lobbies governments around the world on behalf of blind people, has also called on Nepal to reverse its decision, describing it as arbitrary.
New Zealander Mark Inglis became the first double amputee to summit the world’s highest peak in 2006. Inglis had his legs amputated below the knee after a climbing accident in 1982.
The first blind person to summit Everest was US citizen Erik Weihenmayer in 2001. In 2010 partially-sighted Cindy Abbott also reached the top of the 8 848 metre (29 029-foot) peak and last year Andy Holzer, a blind climber from Austria, successfully summited Everest as well.