Hari Budha Magar made history by becoming the first double amputee above the knee to scale Mount Everest.
He descended from the peak of the mountain on Tuesday and announced that he had “cried like a baby upon reaching the top.”
On the ground in Nepal, he is being hailed as a national hero and celebrated by government officials for his stunning feat and show of resilience.
But, Magar told The Post, via phone from Katmandu, he is enduring physical suffering from the rigors of the climb.
“I am not feeling that great,” Magar said of his physical condition even as his mental state remains in overdrive. “I am experiencing phantom-pain. It’s a condition that sometimes effects amputees.
“You feel pins and needs in your feet even though you don’t have feet. It’s a sad kind of pain. It comes sometimes when you overstrain and over-walk.”
Making an understatement for somebody who ascended Everest’s 29,032-feet without the benefit of legs, Magar said, “I’ve had lots of strain.”
But the 43-year-old married father of three, who lost his legs when an improvised explosive device went off as he was serving with Britain’s elite Royal Gurkha Rifles in Afghanistan in 2010, is confident that he will survive and persevere.
He’s overcome a lot to get to where he is today.
Near the end of his vertical quest, which began in early April, he feared he would not make it — even as he neared the top of Everest.
“There was one point, just below the Hillary Steps, nearing the South Summit [of Everest],” said Magar who was accompanied by nine sherpas on the climb. “The guys sent my oxygen and they said it was full. But it leaked. It was empty already. For about 20 minutes I was without oxygen at very high altitude. My hands tingled. I felt that I had no energy. I thought we would all die.”
The treacherous nature of the undertaking was underscored, on the way up, by seeing rescuers pulling bodies of two dead climbers who died mid-ascent.
Magar, who essentially crawled along the mountain, lucked out by getting oxygen from one of his climbing partners.
But he nevertheless slowed his pace due to the sheer exhaustion that came from dragging himself up the mountain.
It put him dangerously behind schedule for nearing the top.
“You want to summit at eight in the morning,” Magar said, explaining that weather conditions on the iconic mountain-top deteriorate as the day wears on and temperatures got so frigid that his oxygen mask froze. “We summited at 3 p.m. and pushed the boundaries in order to make it” — as opposed to turning back. “I was up there for only five or ten minutes. Of course I wanted to be there for longer but the winds were too strong.”
The fact that he even had the opportunity to attempt the climb required perseverance on the legal front.
In December 2017, the Nepalese government forbade double amputees from taking on Everest.
It was justified as an effort to prevent injuries or deaths on Everest.
But this did not stand with Magar. “I went to the Supreme Court to get it reversed,” he said. “By March 2018, we got it overturned” — for himself and for others.
Magar, who lives in London and owns a home rental company called Kent Property Group Limited, faced more daunting challenges than a law that he viewed as prejudicial.
Everest, he explained had been in his sights since he was a little boy. “I was around 9 or 10 when I first thought about climbing Everest,” Magar said. “I grew up in Nepal, where every kid is aware of Everest. The big three are Everest, [serving as a] Gurkha and Buddhism. I have done all three.”
The Ghurkas are a legacy of the British empire, recruited from Nepal to serve in the British Army, where they are renowned for their courage.
But after his legs got blown off in Afghanistan, life as a Gurkha ended, Everest was far from his mind and he feared that the life-altering accident came as the result of “having done something wrong in a previous life.”
“I thought my life was finished,” he said. “I thought the rest of my life would be in a wheelchair with people taking care of me. I thought I would be a burden of the earth. Forget about Everest. I saw no point in living.”
That last sentence is not hyperbole: “I thought about killing myself. I thought of jumping off of a railroad bridge, hanging myself, even crashing myself in a car. I turned into an alcoholic. My hands shook and I knew that by drinking so much I would die soon.”
But then, after a year of so of dissolute living while struggling with rehab, he had a revelation. “I did not want my family to suffer. I decided to live for my family.”
Magar straightened himself out.
As he told Katmandu Post, “I received a proposal for skydiving when I was in a suicidal mindset. I was over 15,000 feet. I jumped in a tandem flight, reached the ground and realized I could do [anything].”
That was in 2011.
“Before taking the sky-dive, I thought the body was more powerful than the mind — and half of my body was gone,” Magar told The Post. “Then I landed, got a rush of confidence and wondered what else I could do physically.”
Exercising for two hours each day and participating in paralytic games such as wheelchair basketball and javelin throwing, Magar regained a lust for life.
He reset his sites on Everest and warmed up by climbing other mountains such as Mont Blanc and Kilmanjaro.
In 2017 he reigned as the first double-amputee to make the top of Mera Peak, which Katmandu Times describes as an “acclimatization before climbing Everest.”
Asked what he hopes to have proven by reaching the top of Everest, Magar said that such a thing is beside the point. “I didn’t want to prove anything. I wanted to make awareness. Culturally, people think that if you are disabled, you are a burden of the earth. That mentality is something that I want to overturn.”