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2008 Olympic Special: Chinese 1975 Everest climber Xia Boyu, "Don't need legs to climb again - but support"

Posted: Aug 24, 2007 11:40 am EDT

(MountEverest.net) Little did Chinese climber Xia Boyu know that his expedition's 1975 Everest triumph would mark the beginning of his difficulties. An un-selfish act high up in the death zone cost him both his legs.

Xia's climbing spirit would get a serious reality check in the 30 years of hardship and pain that would ensue. Yet when a number of amputees began to scale Everest in recent years; Xia was urgently watching.

The 55-year-old climber now wants to return to the peak; facing a challenge that may prove tougher than the climb itself: To find support and sponsorship in a political and financial climate not exactly famous for its interest in disabled people.

Medals and agony for the summiteer

I was member of the Chinese mountaineering expedition on Everest, back in 1975, Xia told ExWeb through a translator. High winds trapped the summiteers and forced them to spend two days and three nights at 8,600m. The following night, at 7,600m, I gave my sleeping bag to one of them, and thus suffered from frostbite in both feet."

Back home, they gave me medals, but my frozen feet wouldnt heal I finally had them amputated."

"The poor blood circulation also later led to cancer, which required surgery and radiotherapy.

A love lasting for 30 years

I was left crippled but not down my deep love for mountaineering remained intact, Xia said. Through these past 30 years, I have been harboring a dream: Even without feet, I must summit Everest!

Xia did everything he could to give himself a chance. I have worked out for years, I have really fought the disability and the illness.

It seems to have paid off, all my body functions are normal now, and the cancer is under control. I have joined local athletic events for the disabled; and won many medals, Xia reports.

It has become common to see disabled people performing on the mountains, he notes. Nawang Sherpa summited Everest in 2005. New Zealander Mark Inglis did the same last year. They inspired me and helped boost my drive to follow in their tracks."

Interest for disabled, a sign of a countrys development

Xia hopes that China and/or Chinese entrepreneurs will hear his call. I think that disabled people being able to climb mountains is a sign of civilization and development," he says. Not just for the individuals, or the humanity as a whole - but also for the country the disabled represent:

"It proves that society shows loving concern, support and understanding, Xia said. Such support encourages the disabled climber in his effort, raising his self-respect and self-confidence."

With the upcoming Olympic event, China might grab the chance to show a softer side. "China has not yet promoted mountaineering activities for the disabled," Xia says, "so I also hope to pave the way for others like myself.

I earnestly hope I can find a supportive company to help me make my dream come true and, at the same time, set a milestone in the countrys interest for disabled climbers, he said.

The 1975 Chinese Everest expedition was successful but Xia was not one of the summiteers. He hopes to get a chance to finish the job next year.


The early Everest pioneers lost their lives to the mountain, one after the other. One of the lucky ones was Chinese Xia - in image shown in Everest's BC back in 1975...
During a TV interview with son Dengdeng. All images courtesy of Demin Ma (click to enlarge).
...he however lost his legs to frostbite at 7,600m after offering his sleeping bag to one of his summiting team mates. Xia says he's been inspired by all the amputees on Everest lately and would love to give the summit a shot this Olympic Year - if he can find sponsors. Both images courtesy of Demin Ma (click to enlarge).