Chinese amputee Xia Boyu achieves life-long goal of climbing the world’s highest peak

By He Keyao Source:Global Times Published: 2018/6/4 18:28:40

Amputee achieves life-long goal of climbing the world’s highest peak


Xia Boyu Photo: Courtesy of Xia Boyu

Xia Boyu rests at home after returning from Mount Qomolangma Photo: He Keyao/GT

More than 40 years ago, a then 25-year-old Chinese man lost both of his feet to frost bite after lending his sleeping bag to a team member during the trip to climb Mount Qomolangma, known in the West as Mount Everest.

Nearly two decades later, after having more of his lower legs amputated, he was diagnosed with cancer, which left him unsure of just how many years he would have left to fulfill his unfinished dream from his 20s. 

At the mid-May, the 69 year-old amputee finally stood proud on two artificial legs on the peak of Mount Qomolangma, a valiant symbol showcasing to the world the power of dreams.

The man's name, Xia Boyu, has become a source of inspiration to many around the world, moving numerous people to tears with his strong mind, persistence and ability to remain optimistic despite the brutal challenges he has faced in life.

Overcoming tragedy

Xia grew up in Northwest China's Qinghai Province and was a professional soccer player before he enrolled into the Chinese national mountaineering team in 1974. With a perfect physique and strong body, Xia was chosen to be one of the key members of the team whose goal was to climb to the top of Mount Qomolangma in 1975, which started his lifetime connection with the world's highest mountain.

The first time that the country's national team made it to the peak, which sits at 8,848 meters above sea level, was in the year 1960. However, since they arrived at night, no photos were taken, which caused the international community to doubt the team's claims.

So when it came time for the second team to take on the challenge, hopes and anticipation were high throughout China. However, the team encountered extremely bad weather at 8,600 meters which trapped them in place for three nights before they had to turn back. One of his team members had grown weak after days of journeying up the mountain and lost his sleeping bag, so Xia gave him his for a night without a second thought.

Xia's kindness, however, cost him as it led to him losing his feet.

Xia had a difficult time in the hospital. Only 25, he couldn't accept the possibility that he may have to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Months later, a German medical expert gave Xia a glimmer of hope by telling him that it may be possible to fit him with prostheses.

"At the time, most of my visitors showed pity and sorrow, which I didn't like. I like to think positive, so the expert's words really gave me hope. I promised myself that I would go mountain climbing again," Xia told the Global Times.

From then on, Xia constantly trained. He tied sandbags to what remained of his legs so he could exercise and build up his strength. Even though prosthetic legs were not available in China at the time due to the limited availability of medical technology, Xia strongly believed that he would one day fulfill his unfinished dream and so, before that day came, the best thing to do was to prepare himself.

Three years later he finally got his new legs, which enabled him to continue his sports career. Over the years, he participated in many domestic and international competitions for the disabled and won many awards. However, fate once again took a dark turn when he was in his 40s.

In 1993, lesions developed on the stumps on his legs, which required another third of his lower legs be amputated. Three years after that, he was diagnosed with lymph cancer and had to go through chemotherapy.

"That was the biggest hit yet. My life was bitter enough and I hadn't realized my dream yet; I was afraid I didn't have enough time left to accomplish it," said Xia. After a short period of depression, he managed to put himself together.

"I needed positive energy and so moved out of the hospital, since I couldn't stand the sad atmosphere there," Xia explained.

Never giving up 

Over the years, Xia never gave up his dream of climbing Mount Qomolangma. Prior to his final successful climb in 2018, he had tried four other times to climb to the summit, but each time Lady Luck gave him the cold shoulder.

Trekking up the mountain was especially difficult for Xia, as his artificial legs made it hard for him to get a feel for the ground and also required he put most of his weight on his arms, which can be exhausting.

The last time he got close to his dream was in 2016. The then 67 year-old was only 94 meters from the summit, but a snow storm blocked his way. Taking his team members' safety into consideration, Xia made the heart-breaking decision to go back.

 "The key is to focus on your dreams, instead of the hardships you encounter along the way," Xia said, stressing that fulfilling one's dream has nothing to do with age, disability or the thoughts or expectations of others, but a firm belief in yourself.

On May 14, Xia finally made it to the top of Mount Qomolangma after seven days of hard work. Standing on the peak of the highest mountain in the world, he felt relief and a strong sense of fulfillment well up in him.

"I didn't regret anything that I had done and accepted everything that life had thrown at me, but I never stopped fighting against fate," Xia said with a smile. Regarding Nepal's ban against double amputees and blind climbers that was later rescinded, Xia agreed with the move since he feels the disabled are just like ordinary people and as such there should not be any limits set for them.

Xia is currently working on his autobiography, which he expects will be published next year.


Newspaper headline: The power of dreams


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