KATHMANDU, MAY 24
At 9:30am today, 46-yearold Zhang Hong became the first blind Chinese mountaineer to have climbed Mt Everest on his first attempt with the assistance of his mountain guide Qiang Zi and three sherpas - Lhakpa Sherpa, Dawa Wongchu Sherpa, and Samden Bhote.
Zhang is the third blind person to have climbed Mt Everest after American Erik Weihenmayer (in 2001) and Austrian Andy Holzer (in 2017).
"In my life, though I'm blind, I felt I could face any challenge. When I'm in the mountain, though I still can't see, I'm in awe of nature. Overcoming the death zone and the summit makes me want to embrace and be a humble part of mother nature," was Zhang's first reaction after reaching the roof of the world.
Born in 1976 near Chongqing in a farmer's family, Zhang had to take care of his father and uncle who lost their sight due to glaucoma. Missing China's college entrance exam he had no choice but to start working as a migrant worker during the 90s. At 21 years of age, Zhang also became blind and had to switch to the low-income position of blind masseur at Tibet Fokind Hospital.
After hearing the story of Weihenmayer, the first blind person to have ever climbed Mt Everest, Zhang decided to prepare to climb the mountain. He has been trained for many years, under the guidance of his friend and mountain guide Qiang Zi.
After the pandemic forced them to postpone their trip in 2020, Zhang and his team got vaccinated in China earlier this year then followed a 14-day quarantine in Kathmandu. Upon reaching Everest base camp, Zhang and his team underwent a rigorous training process for weeks before attempting to reach the summit.
Their last PCR test was conducted at Everest's base camp just before they left for the summit and was negative.
"This is only the beginning as I would like to climb the Seven Summits," said Zhang over the radio after coming back to the safety of Camp 4 at 8,000m near the death zone. His journey is currently being followed by Chinese filmmaker Fan Lixin (2009 Emmy Award for 'Last Train Home') and his story will hit the cinemas in early 2022.
A version of this article appears in the print on May 25, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.