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The Ethics of Climbing Everest

Xia Boyu’s triumph has exacerbated an ethical debate that has been raging for several months: Who belongs on the roof of the world?

On Apr. 2, the Chinese climber Xia Boyu stood at the entrance of a Buddhist monastery in Kathmandu, awaiting his turn for a blessing. For the throngs of cross-legged pilgrims thumbing prayer beads on the temple porch, the day was the last day of an annual purification ritual. For the tourists in khakis, the chanting monks and vividly colored silks presented a stunning photo opportunity. And for dozens of Sherpas and their clients, like Xia, who were about to embark on the annual Everest climbing season, it was a chance to pray that they would make it back from the mountain alive.

Xia needed every prayer he could get. Six weeks after the blessing — at 8.26 a.m. local time on May 14 — he finally made it to the top of the world’s highest peak. He was 69, had failed to summit on four previous occasions, and was a double amputee, missing both his lower legs, which were amputated after suffering frostbite in a failed Everest expedition when he was just 25. He also used prosthetic limbs that one expert described as “exactly what does not belong on Everest” because they were modular and liable to freeze up (ever tried to thread a screw at 26,000 feet?).

But his epic triumph has called attention to a small subset of the tight-knit climbing fraternity: disabled climbers. The Nepalese government has been trying to ban disabled climbers from the slopes of Sagarmatha (“Mother Goddess of the Earth”), as Everest is known locally. Source: www.time.com

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