Xia Boyu is a 72-year-old man now, but it was only three years ago that he scaled the world’s highest summit — Mount Everest, something that is generally done by people under 50. Xia’s feat is even more impressive because he is a double amputee and reached the peak with two artificial legs.
He has mixed feelings about the world’s highest mountain, also known as Qomolangma (Holy Mother) in Tibetan, which claimed both of his feet back in 1975. More than two decades later, in 1996, his lower legs were also amputated due to cancer.
On December 3, a documentary about the intrepid septuagenarian’s daring ascent arrived in Chinese theaters. The film, To The Summit (无尽攀登), documents then-69-year-old Xia’s successful journey to the peak of Everest, 43 years after his first visit to the formidable rock face.
When he was chosen for his first expedition to Everest, Xia was in his mid-20s. He got close to the summit on that first ascent, but the crew was met with a major storm that forced them to turn back.
During the summit attempt, Xia gave up his sleeping bag to assist one of his teammates, which resulted in his feet getting frostbite and ultimately being removed.
The young thrill-seeker was rightly scared after the surgery, as it seemed his life passions — football and climbing — were now impossible. But Xia never abandoned his mountain dreams and learned to walk with two prosthetic limbs.
He began training by walking and eventually climbing, something he would do for the next four-plus decades.
Finally, in 2018, after three more failed attempts to scale the peak of Everest, he reached the destination he had sacrificed so much for, guided by Dawa Gyalje Sherpa.
The legendary expedition earned Xia the title of the first double amputee to summit Everest from Nepal, along with a host of awards recognizing his momentous accomplishment.
As if the feat wasn’t challenging enough, he faced an additional barrier from the Nepalese government, which temporarily banned double amputees like Xia from scaling the mountain for safety reasons.
Fortunately, the ban was finally lifted in 2018 on the grounds that it discriminated against people with disabilities.
The documentary explores Xia’s lifelong commitment to mountaineering, which, of course, includes far more challenges than just Everest.
He has reached many of the world’s most epic summits, including Muztagata, Aconcagua, and Island Peak, with Beijing’s Fragrant Hills being his go-to choice for daily exercise.
Most netizens who commented on the film on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, expressed their amazement at Xia’s feat.
One wrote, “I want to bring my kids to this film to teach them about perseverance, and I also want to bring my parents there because I want them to know they are still strong enough to achieve their dreams.”
Cover image via Weibo
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