Tag: Mountaineering

69 Year Old Chinese Double Amputee Conquers Everest

Mount Everest has long been the one impossible mountain where big dreams and determined climbers have met their untimely death. The many frozen-in-time carcasses that litter the mountain are proof not only of its cruelty, but of its timeless, near obsessive attraction to men and women of action. But recently, one Chinese mountaineer proved that no dream is too impossible to accomplish when, after twelve previous attempts, he finally summited the world’s tallest peak. But here’s the thing that makes him a newstyletrends Hall of Fame top pick: he did it at 69 years old and with both his legs amputated.

Xia Boyu (Source: GearJunkie)

According to the New York Times, Xia Boyu, a native of Sichuan, China, first attempted the daring climb back in 1975 where he and his team encountered avalanches and a massive storm. Just 500 ft from the summit, the bad weather forced the team back down. When one of his team members lost his sleeping bag, the then 26 year old Xia offered up his. That one kind gesture cost him both his feet when frost bite resulted in a double amputation. Fast forward two decades and a battle with lymphoma necessitated more amputation, this time losing what was left of his legs below the knees. You would think that a man rendered so severely disabled might give up on his dream to conquer the world’s mightiest mountain, but Xia is not the kind of man who allows a small bump-in-the-road, like the loss of both legs, to get in his way. Fact is, he never stopped dreaming of making the climb. He also never stopped training or planning for it.

Everest summit and prayer flags

He attempted the climb again in 2014 when he was in his late sixties. The attempt was met with tragedy when 16 climbers were killed when the serac (an unstable glacial column) they were crossing collapsed in an ice avalanche. Not to be deterred, Xia made it back for the 2015 season, but the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal cut that expedition off in its tracks. In 2016, he came within 300 feet of Everest’s summit, but the weather once more turned against him. Then came the worst blow of all. While waiting for his climbing permit for yet another attempt in 2017, the Nepal Ministry of Tourism banned all double amputees from the mountain altogether. However, in a subsequent ruling, the country’s Supreme Court overturned the ban and Xia was free to climb again.

You might have guessed by now that Xia, a thin, wiry man of tip-top condition, is not the first double amputee to attempt the Everest climb. The Guardian reports that he’s the second climber to achieve the summit after Mark Inglis, a New Zealander, reached it from the Tibetan side back in 2006. Climber Santiago Quintero, who’d lost half of both feet while on a climb in South America, peaked in 2013. The double amputee club might be small, and they might not have all their limbs, but they sure do make up for it in balls.

Xia Bouy crossing an ice ladder on the Khumbu icefall (Source: Time)

Monday, May 13, 2016, 8:26AM. 161km northeast of Kathmandu. Fresh snow whips Xia’s face. The snow freezes to his goggles, limiting his vision. His breathing is shallow, his O2-deprived lungs surviving on the supplemental, life-sustaining bottled oxygen he and his team carry. He’s surrounded on all side by 70 million year old, ice-covered rock. The relentless wind whips and pounds. It seems to penetrate his protective clothing and gear. He’s wearing prosthetic devices for legs, but even if the legs he was born with were still attached, he wouldn’t feel his feet anyway. 

He holds fast to ropes prepared by his eight man Sherpa team. The ropes are the only thing that exist between his mortality and the almighty. They will guide him to the summit. Without them he will surly loose his way and freeze to death in a matter of minutes. Each step is agony. He’s moving in slow motion. But he’s also driven like never before. He is of a singular mind. He’s been to this place so many times before only to be turned back by death, pain, and failure.

But now, while the white clouds speed past patches of blue heavenly sky and bright sunlight illuminates the jagged peak, Xia manages the final few steps and in the process achieves what only two men before him have accomplished. He has summited the highest peak in the world. The 70 year old cancer survivor has not only touched the sky, he has come face to face with God.

Xia Boyu on Everest (image courtesy of Xia Boyu)

In response to Xia’s stunning accomplishment and his never ending force of will, Sherpa Ang Tshering, President of the Nepal Mountaineering Association said, “Everything is possible. I have found that disabled climbers work hard and they are very committed. It’s a great example to the world about their success.”

GearJunkie reports that the good weather over Everest is presently peaking. More than 450 adventurers are expected to summit this season. 340 of them will make it happen via the south side route, and another 120 from the north side. All of them enjoy the use of all their limbs.

The Four Deadliest Mountains on Earth


Mount Everest is sexy. “Tallest mountain in the world”—the phrase has a glamorous ring that the world’s best climbers have found irresistible for generations. Many of these adventurers have paid for their attraction to the 8,850-meter summit with their lives. Still, the numbers say it’s not the world’s deadliest peak to reach—not by a long shot. Several of the other eight thousanders, a mountaineering term for the fourteen independent mountains that tower at least 8,000 meters above sea level, have proven themselves much more lethal over time. The four mountaintops described below are, objectively, the deadliest in the world for those who would try to scale them.

4. Kangchenjunga

Kangchenjunga’s base takes 15 days to reach.
Image Via: thousandwonders.net

Straddling the Nepalese border with India, Kangchenjunga is hard to even pronounce correctly, let alone climb. This Himalayan beast has claimed more than its share of those brave enough to attempt an ascent. The third highest mountain in the world, Kangchenjunga has only been summited by 187 climbers. 40 others have died in the attempt. That breaks down to a death rate of nearly 22 percent, the fourth highest figure of any independent mountain on Earth.

Kangchenjunga’s isolation is its defining (and lethal) characteristic. It can take as long as 15 days to even reach basecamp. It wasn’t even first summited until 1955, two years after Everest. This lack of accessibility means that no commercial outfitters even offer summit expeditions. There are also long stretches of the climb that can’t be tackled using fixed ropes. Anyone who wants to reach the top has to risk long stretches entirely self-supported. It’s a dangerous combination that’s reflected in the grim statistics.

Crevasse Crossing
Image Via: Fxbx.com

3. Nanga Parbat

Image Via: trbimg

Ominously dubbed, “the killer mountain,” this Pakistani giant killed 31 climbers before the first full ascent was ever completed in 1953. Coming in at ninth on the tallest mountains list, there’s more to Nanga Parbat’s infamy than height alone. Especially brutal weather can make the ascent treacherous even by the extreme standards of the eight thousanders. Checking in just above Kangchenjunga in terms of deadliness, a full 23% of all successful summits have been accompanied by a death.

Just months ago, an attempt to summit by two of the world’s most experienced mountaineers turned fatal when a sudden snowstorm struck. French climber Elisabeth Revol and her partner, Tomasz Mackiewicz, had to abandon their effort to reach the peak when unexpectedly fierce blizzards began to lash the mountainside. Revol was able to descend to a point where she was able to use a satellite phone to call for help, but Mackiewicz was stranded higher up the mountain.

A team of highly skilled Polish mountaineers abandoned their own concurrent trek to the top of K2 for the rescue mission. They were helicoptered to Nanga Parbat and made it to Revol in time to save her. Unfortunately, the altitude at which she had left Mackiewicz was unreachable in the conditions. Snowblindness and the shockingly low temperatures handicapped the rescuers. Nanga Parbat, which literally translates to “naked mountain,” rises so high above all surrounding terrain that it’s completely exposed to the jet stream. While Mackiewicz is the most recent (and highly publicized) victim of this ruthless topography, the history of Nanga Parbat indicates he surely won’t be the last.

2. K2

K2 Mountain

The only mountain on this list with a height proportional to its lethality, K2 is both the second tallest mountain in the world and the second most dangerous in terms of death rate. Towering 8,611 meters above sea level, 24% of those who have set out to complete K2’s ascent never made it back. It’s also the peak that has long regarded as the most technically challenging climb planet Earth has to offer. Only the greatest mountain climbers in the world have historically had a chance to scale K2; it makes sense that many less adept (or just less fortunate) have died in the attempt.

Less than 400 people in history have completed the trip up K2. That’s only a small fraction of the 7500 that have scaled Everest. Vanessa O’Brien, one of the most renowned climbers alive today, says there are several reasons that K2 is so difficult and dangerous. “When you’re on the actual climb,” she emphasizes, “K2 is shaped like a triangle so it’s demanding 110% day one. Everest, there’s twists and turns, so it’s not always climbing steep.” This constant, almost vertical battle against gravity undoubtedly explains why so many have perished on this most demanding of climbs.

1. Annapurna

Annapurna Ice Walls
Image Via: TechTalk

The name itself evokes images of icy death for elite mountaineers worldwide. Annapurna has seen less than 200 humans stand in triumph at its summit since it was first made by Maurice Herzog in 1950. In that time, 61 fatalities have been recorded for a summit-to-death ratio of nearly one in three. That bone-chilling figure can be explained in one word: avalanches.

All the eight thousanders are steep, snowy, and slick, a set of conditions that lends itself to avalanche risk. Annapurna, however, is so often blanketed with fresh powder that many who have attempted it regard making it to the top a matter of pure chance. “Annapurna is a life-taking mountain,” writes Mingma Sherpa, who made the summit in 2015. “Climbing [it] depends on luck and hard work.” Sherpa’s 12-man team lost 2 of its number during the descent.

Ultimately, the numbers don’t lie. It’s important to keep in mind that death rates and summit-to-fatality figures are often an understatement of a mountain’s true deadliness. It’s fair to assume that most everyone who reaches the top reports it; who doesn’t want the recognition that accompanies scaling the world’s highest peaks? However, many of those who are killed on the way never make it into the recordbooks. All of these treacherous giants have likely claimed many more lives than anyone can truly know. Everest may represent the pinnacle of climbing achievement in popular culture, but serious climbers know the truth. These four monsters are much more difficult and deadly.