The LowdownExtraordinary stories and technical knowhow
Mountains Are for Everybody
The first thing Hari Budha Magar knew of the incident was a ringing in his right ear. Hari was a Gurkha serving in Afghanistan in 2010 when he stood on an improvised explosive device and suffered injuries that left him a double amputee above the knee. He was in hospital for weeks and then underwent a long period of rehabilitation. Even small tasks were difficult for him at first: brushing his teeth, putting his clothes on. Mentally, too, things were difficult. He worried about how he would provide for his family. He worried about what value he could have as a human being. For a while, he drank too much. But step by step he brought himself back into the world of possibilities. He stopped thinking of himself as someone who might be capable of nothing and starting thinking of himself as someone who might be capable of everything. He stopped drinking and started skydiving. And bungee jumping. And kayaking. And skiing. And rock climbing. He climbed smaller mountains. Then he climbed bigger mountains. Now he has climbed the biggest mountain of them all. Hari has become the first double above-the-knee amputee (DAK) to climb Everest. And he was wearing clothing specially designed by PHD.
Hari lives now in Canterbury, but he was born into a farming family in Nepal in the foothills of the Himalayas. From where he grew up, he could see Dhaulagiri, and his reading about the first ascent of Everest put into his head the idea that one day he might climb Everest himself. His childhood had some striking aspects: He was born in a cowshed, took a long barefoot walk to school every day, and underwent an arranged marriage at the age of 11. Then, at 19, he successfully applied to join the Gurkhas, where he attained the rank of corporal and had roles that included combat medic, sniper, and covert surveillance. On the day of the explosion, his patrol was on its way to repair a well to provide water for local people. Hari’s take on the change in his life is that where once he fought an enemy, now he fights his injury.
Becoming the first DAK to climb Everest, isn't the first time he’s been first at something. He was the first DAK to climb Ben Nevis, the first to climb Mt Toubkal, the first to climb Chulu Far East, and the first to trek to Everest Base Camp. He was also the first DAK to climb Mera Peak, which made him the first DAK to climb a mountain over 6,000m in height. Hari has been accompanied on many of his adventures by Krishna Thapa, a former Chief Mountain Instructor in the SAS who has acted as a guide on expeditions all around the world for clients who include amputees, people with visual impairments, people with Parkinson’s disease, and veterans afflicted by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
For the Everest expedition, both Hari and Krishna usied PHD clothing and sleeping bags. Krishna wore Omega Down Mitts, which are the warmest down mitts we make, and Omega Down Socks, which are the warmest down socks we make. He wore the -50˚C version of our Expedition Double Suit, which is a suit that uses layering to allow quick responses to changes in temperature, and has been used on various successful ascents of Everest.
We’re pretty unusual at PHD in our ability to tailor expedition gear to the individual, and for Hari we made a customised version of the suit. During the ascent, he used shorter prosthetic legs known as ‘stubbies’, and the suit legs were adjusted accordingly and feature full lock down closure around the prosthetics to prevent cold air getting in. This latter customisation was the most difficult of the customisations to get right. It took us four attempts. But we found a way of doing it. The suit also features heat pad envelopes on the legs and bolstered knee and abrasion patches. Hari has a particular climbing style, and spends a lot of time on the ground, and the patches minimised wear at the points of greatest abrasion. In addition, we made him a pair of shorts based on our Minimus trousers. These shorts have closed ends and can be used in lieu of slippers and for sleeping in. For around the camp, he had some hard-wearing Kappa shorts. Both Hari and Krishna used our Hispar 600 K and Hispar 1000 K down sleeping bags. These bags take warmth to weight to the limit.
Hari’s Everest climb has encountered various obstacles, including the introduction of a ban on double amputee ascents of Everest. Hari, however, believes the mountain should be for everybody, and he was part of a successful campaign to get the ban repealed. He has demonstrated with his climb that a person with disabilities is not a person without possibilities, and that disabilities do not rule out the living of a full life. It was hard to get to the top of Everest. Climbing with prosthetics, Hari has said, makes every step a struggle, and he climbs three times slower than able bodied climbers.
Joanna Lumley thinks Hari ‘an extraordinary, exemplary man’. If you go to his website, you can watch a video in which she says so. You can also learn there about the part that golf has played in his rehabilitation, and how he hoped to play a shot from the top of Everest using a biodegradable ball. His adventures can be followed on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and if you’d like to donate to his Everest fund, you can visit his Crowdfunder page.
Hari’s Everest climb has encountered various obstacles, including the introduction of a ban on double amputee ascents of Everest. Hari, however, believes the mountain should be for everybody, and he was part of a successful campaign to get the ban repealed.
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The double suit is a quick-change suit for reacting to variations in temperature, and we’ve been hearing tales of its appearances on the world’s highest mountains.