Monday, January 15, 2018

Disabled Climber Delays Attempt on Everest in Wake of Nepal Climbing Ban

This past fall I shared the inspiring story of Hari Budha Magar, a former Ghurka soldier who lost both of his legs in combat in Afghanistan. Determined to not let that stop him from pursuing his goals however, Magar not only summited Mera Peak a few months back, he also set his sights on attempting Everest this spring too. Now, thanks to the strict new climbing rules passed by the Nepali government, he is being forced to postpone his expedition.

According to the Himalayan Times, Magar and his team have decided to delay their attempt on Everest until 2019. This shift in date will allow them to better organize the climb, give Hari more of a chance to hone his mountaineering skills, and plan the climb more fully. They also hope to petition the Nepali government to give the former Ghurka a permit to attempt the mountain.

In December, the Nepali Council of Ministers voted to ban blind climbers, double-amputees, and those deemed "medically unfit" from climbing on the South Side of the mountain. Those same regulations also now forbid solo climbs as well. These new guidelines have been met with sharp criticism as they seem to be aimed at a very small subset of climbers that don't really need protection. The fatality rate amongst disabled mountaineers is extremely low, in large part because they are well supervised throughout every phase of their climb.

In a statement announcing the postponement of his climb, Magar and his squad say that they agree with the government's efforts to make Everest safer, but those efforts should be aimed at those who are not properly prepared to be on the mountain. They argue that it shouldn't matter whether they are able bodied or disabled in any way, it should instead come down to their level of skill, experience, and preparation.

It is quite possible that Magar and his team will leave the South Side of Everest and head to the North Side instead. So far, the Chinese officials that oversee climbing operations in Tibet have not indicated that they will institute a similar ban on disabled climbers there. It is possible that Hari and his team will try to first resolve this issue with Nepal, but if those efforts fail, they'll head north instead.

This seems to be a story that continues to evolve at a steady pace right now. I'm sure we haven't heard the last of it.

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