Mount Everest’s summit season got underway Monday with at least 30 climbers reaching the peak, including record-setting climbs from a Chinese double amputee and an Australian who has climbed the highest peaks on every continent.
Chinese climber Xia Boyu became the first double amputee to scale the mountain from the Nepali side of the peak. Another double amputee, Mark Inglis from New Zealand, climbed Everest from the peak’s Tibet side in 2006.
Xia, who is 69, also became the oldest double amputee to reach the summit. He first tried in 1975 but lost both of his legs during the climb due to frostbite. Xinhua’s official news agency said Xia tried to reach the summit in 2014, 2015 and 2016, but failed in those attempts.
A recent Nepalese ban on disabled climbers nearly ended Xia's attempts. Nepalese authorities implemented a ban last year preventing double amputees and blind people from trying to scale Everest because of the danger to them. The move was struck down by Nepal’s courts, which said the ban discriminated against people with disabilities.
Also Monday, Australian Steve Plain became the fastest climber to scale the highest peaks on each of the Earth’s seven continents. Plain’s expedition company said it took him 117 days to scale the so-called Seven Summits, culminating in the ascent of Everest on Monday morning.
Polish climber Janusz Kochanski held the previous record of 126 days to complete the Seven Summits — Everest, Denali, Elbrus, Vinson, Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro and Carstensz Pyramid.
Plain also overcame physical challenges to set his climbing record. In 2014, he broke his neck in a surfing accident and was nearly paralyzed.
April and May are considered the best months to climb Everest, although May usually has only a few good weather days to make it possible to reach the summit.
About 340 foreigners are currently attempting the climb from the Nepal side of the mountain, and another 180 are waiting to ascend from the Tibet side. The climbers pay around $11,000 for a climbing permit and their Sherpa guides.
At 8,850-meters high, Everest was first scaled by New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953.