One-legged man climbs
Monday May 24, 2004 07:08 - (SA)
Four years after he lost part of a leg in a traffic accident, Nawang
Sherpa was standing on the top of the world.
The 30-year-old Nepalese man, who has a prosthetic left leg from
the knee down, has conquered Mount Everest. But he said that scaling
the highest peak, a feat that has daunted so many experienced climbers
before him, was "not so difficult."
When he reached the the 8,848-meter (29,028-foot) summit on May
16, Sherpa said he thought back to July 2000 when he was knocked
down by a public bus.
"I just remembered the moment of the accident, and the agony that
I experienced after it," Sherpa said.
"After reaching the summit, I was dumbfounded for some time as I
forgot I was standing on the top of Earth," he told AFP.
"With my successful Everest ascent, I realised that people with
disabilities should also be given the opportunity to show their
skills rather than just be the objects of sympathy."
Sherpa, who brought bottled oxygen, made it to the top of Everest
in 11 hours and 15 minutes by climbing up the South Col route.
"I did not find it so difficult when I climbed to the summit of
Mount Everest from our final camp set up at an elevation of 7,900
meters (25,920 feet)," Sherpa said.
It was faster - but more demanding - on the way down.
"It took me six hours to descend to the South Col from the summit
and I found climbing down with an artificial leg was difficult,"
After Sherpa's ascent, a Nepal Mountaineering Association official
erroneously said that the 30-year-old had two artificial legs.
Sherpa, as befits his name, is an experienced climber.
The Sherpas, a mountain people, have long been the forgotten guides
who assist Himalayan climbs - the most famous being Tenzing Norgay,
who with Edmund Hillary first conquered Everest on May 29, 1953.
The first physically challenged person to conquer Mount Everest
was Tom Whittaker, an American whose foot had been amputated, in
It was that same year that Nawang Sherpa, two years before he would
be hit by a bus, made an unsuccessful attempt to climb Mount Annapurna
with Tom McMilan, an executive from San Francisco.
McMilan, learning later that his young guide had been hurt, helped
raise funds for his prosthetic leg.
In 2003, amid golden jubilee celebrations for Hillary and Tenzing
Norgay Sherpa's historic ascent, McMilan and Nawang Sherpa decided
to forge their own partnership to conquer Mount Everest.
McMilan recalled a moment of fright going up Mount Everest when
their expedition, which also included three other climbers, was
supported only by a nylon rope.
"The rope was about six milimeters thick and I was very scared of
the possibility of the rope snapping and throwing all of us down,"
But the team made it up and McMilan credited Nawang Sherpa with
being a "courageous climber" - who conquered Everest as fast as
anyone who was not physically challenged.
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