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This Week In That's Incredible!

Nawang Sherpa

Nawang Sherpa’s lifelong dream to summit Mount Everest was not unique; many climbers wish to test themselves on the world’s highest mountain. What sets Nawang apart, however, is he fulfilled his dream in 2004—and he did it with one leg.

Four years earlier, Nawang’s journey to the top of the world seemed unlikely. Although he had worked as a mountaineering guide for years, his climbing career nearly ended when he lost his left leg in a motorcycle accident. Refusing to give in to despair, Nawang vowed not only to climb again, but to do so on Mount Everest. With the support of American friends, Nawang traveled to a clinic in the United States and was fitted with a titanium-and-carbon-fiber prosthesis. Following his rehabilitation, he accepted an invitation to join the Friendship Beyond Borders Expedition organized by his friend Tom McMillan.

To ascend Everest, climbers must push the limits of their endurance and brave the mountain’s many hazards: crevasses; avalanches; rock fall; ferocious winds; unpredictable weather; altitude sickness; frostbite; the massive, unstable blocks of the Khumbu Icefall; and ultimately, the death zone—the mountain’s upper reaches where the atmosphere is so thin climbers’ bodies are unable to recover, even at rest. It is a difficult challenge for the strongest individuals—on two legs—but Nawang would do it on one.

On May 16, 2004, he completed his journey and became the first person to summit Everest with a prosthetic leg. Later, he would tell the Gorkhapatra Daily, "The disabled need encouragement and opportunity, not mere sympathy." And a role model like Nawang.

Nawang Sherpa discusses his inspirational journey and presents a one-hour movie documenting the expedition’s successful summit attempt at the Friendship Beyond Borders Expedition Presentation, REI, McFadden Place, 1411 Village Way, Santa Ana, (714) 543-4142; www.rei.com/stores/santaana. Tues., 7 p.m. $10. Space is limited, so call for tickets. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Viswa Darshan Secondary School in Tapting, Nepal.

—Scott Giffin