Climbing ban forces double amputee Gurkha soldier to postpone Mt Everest bid

KATHMANDU: Hari Budha Magar, a former British Gurkha soldier who lost both his legs in Afghanistan, will not be attempting to climb the world’s highest peak this year, according to the expedition organiser.

Issuing a statement today, Ian Rigden, Chairman of the Conquering Dreams Expedition announced that the organiser made a decision to postpone the expedition until 2019 after the government introduced a new mountaineering rule banning blind, double-amputee and solo climbers from attempting the climbing peaks including Mt Everest.

This is a very recent decision and, in light of several other later Government communiques, there is a lack of clarity on what this actually means in practice, the statement read, adding “Due to this uncertainty, and the very real possibility that we will not get a permit for Hari this year, we have made the decision to postpone the expedition until 2019, subject to clarification of the rules.”

The postponement will enable the organiser to conduct further planning, more detailed training for Hari both in and outside Nepal, and provide it with the opportunity to work with the Nepali Government and Mountaineering Association to clarify the rules for all climbers in the future, the Brigadier (Retd) stated.

“While we firmly believe that it is the right of the Nepali Government to place greater control, and care and consideration for climbers on Mt Everest, particularly their safety, the new rules do not take into account the actual climbing ability of the mountaineers,” it said, adding, “There are disabled and blind climbers who have the depth of experience and knowledge to make a successful ascent of Everest and are supported by experienced teams and they should not be barred for their physical disability but, in line with all potential climbers should be assessed on their actual mountaineering ability.”

The Government in seeking to protect them, as well as other climbers, has unwittingly taken away their opportunity to succeed despite their disability and gain pride in that achievement, the statement added. “This does not mean that everyone has the right to climb Everest; that right has to be earned like everything else in life, which is why we are spending a lot of time training Hari to be ready. He is earning that right through his hard work and dedication.”

According to the statement, the organiser concurs that only those who are properly prepared should be allowed to do so, but no distinction should be made between fully able-bodied or disabled climbers. “It is the quality of the individual’s preparation, training and readiness which should be the defining criteria. Defining these criteria is what we intend to discuss with the Nepali Government and Mountaineering Association and help them come up with the optimal solution during 2018.”

The Conquering Dreams team consists of an international coalition of military veterans and medical advisors who remain committed to support Hari’s dream of climbing Mt Everest. The mission of the expedition remains the same: to place the first double above knee amputee on the summit of Mt Everest. “We will pursue this for as long as it takes.”

“In the meantime we will continue to work with both the Nepali government and our sponsors to work for clarification on the rules and continue training throughout 2018 in anticipation of a climbing permit for a 2019 summit attempt of Mt Everest,” Ian further said in the statement, “We all firmly believe that nothing is impossible. Please help us to continue to make Hari's dream come true, but also to help him continue to be an inspiration for people around the world.”