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China’s latest hero is a 69-year-old double amputee who conquered Everest

A Chinese double amputee who finally made it to the peak of Mount Everest on his fifth try has won the hearts of Chinese internet users in awe of his bravery and perseverance.

Xia Boyu, a 69-year-old man who first attempted to scale Everest four decades ago, became the second double amputee to reach the summit and the first from the Nepal side. The first double amputee to reach the top of Everest was Mark Inglis from New Zealand, who did it from the Tibetan side in 2006.

Xia was already well-known to many Chinese people for his attempts to summit the world’s highest mountain above sea level. When he finally did so on Monday (May 14) morning, local media quickly nicknamed him “amputee hero,” and Weibo, a Chinese social network akin to Twitter, exploded with activity. A hashtag in his honor—#69岁无腿老人登顶珠峰# (translated as 69-year-old amputee elderly scaled the peak of Everest)—started trending. The page aggregating posts with the hashtag has garnered more than 9 million views.

“He has been fighting his whole life to have this wonderful journey,” wrote one user (link in Chinese). “He was not only climbing Everest but also the peak of human willpower.”

A video dated May 5 on Facebook that showed him training was also viewed more than 12,000 times.

Xia’s quest was nearly derailed when Nepal in December banned double amputees and blind people from climbing Everest in hopes of reducing the number of deaths on the mountain. The Nepal supreme court overturned the ban in March.

On his first Everest attempt in 1975, Xia suffered severe frostbite after lending his sleeping bag to a sick teammate during a storm. The doctor had to amputate both Xia’s feet, and his legs were amputated above the knee in 1996 as he battled lymphoma.

With his prosthetic legs, he made three attempts in 2014, 2015, and 2016, but was derailed by unfavorable conditions, including avalanches and an earthquake (paywall). In 2016, he was only about 100 meters (330 feet) (link in Chinese) from the peak but had to turn back when a blizzard set in.

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