Blind and Double-Amputee Climbers Regain Right to Climb Everest
In late 2017, the Nepalese government instituted now-overturned restrictions that would not have permitted such climbers to attempt Everest.
In a twist sure to be celebrated by the climbing community, Nepal’s supreme court has stayed recently imposed rules that forbade blind and double-amputee individuals from climbing Everest.
In December 2017, Nepal’s government announced a new slate of restrictions on who could and could not climb Everest going forward. In addition to the above demographics, the rules banned those under 16 years old and solo climbers from attempting the mountain. While the inclusion of the latter provision was likely (at least in part) precipitated by the death of Ueli Steck in April 2017, the ban on blind and double-amputee climbers was harder to understand. According to the Himalayan Database, only two disabled climbers have ever perished on Everest, versus a whopping 288 for non-disabled climbers.
At the time Nepal announced the new rules, Hardi Budha Magar, a double-amputee from Nepal who resides in Canterbury, England, was preparing for a spring 2018 attempt on Everest. According to the website for his expedition, Magar “lost both of his legs above the knee [and] sustained multiple injuries [from] an improvised explosive device” in 2010 during his service in the British military in Afghanistan.
The outcry against the new rules at the time was swift and came from both inside and beyond the climbing community. Alan Arnette, a veteran Everest climber and chronicler, wrote a blog post in which he decried the restrictions as “Byzantine rules that are not grounded in merit or even common sense.” Alaina B. Teplitz, the U.S. Ambassador to Nepal, tweeted after the initial announcement about the possibility of new rules: “Ability not perceived ‘disability’ must guide rules on who can trek Mt. Everest. Climbers like Hari Budha Magar shouldn’t be banned because of false assumptions about capabilities. Accessible tourism for ALL will make it clear that Nepal welcomes everyone!”
On March 7, The Himalayan Times reported that, in response to complaints filed by Madhav Prasad Chamlagain and a blind climber named Amit KC, Nepal’s Supreme Court commanded the government not to implement the rules at this time and “also issued a show cause notice to the government telling it to give reasons within 15 days for inserting such a provision to bar double amputee and visually impaired climbers from seeking climbing permit.”
Both blind and double-amputee climbers have summited Mount Everest before. In 2003, the American adventurer Erik Weihenmayer became the first blind person to climb the mountain. In 2006, the New Zealander Mark Inglis—who had both legs amputated below the knees in 1982 after suffering frostbite on Aoraki (Mt. Cook)—became the first double-amputee to stand on top of the world.
No news as of yet regarding any challenges or changes to the provisions barring solo climbers or those under 16 years old.
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