KATHMANDU, Nepal, May 27 — After years of trying, a 49-year-old American
man with an artificial leg reached the summit of Mount Everest on
Wednesday, becoming the first disabled climber to stand atop the world’s
NEPAL’S TOURISM ministry said Tom Whittaker, a British-born
professor of adventure education at Prescott College in Arizona, reached
the highest point on earth, 29,028 feet above sea level, at 7 a.m. local
Whittaker, who lost his right kneecap and foot in a 1979 car
accident and wears an artificial leg fitted below the knee, made the ascent
on his third bid for the summit on this expedition.
On a previous bid on May 20, he was turned back at 27,000 feet after
being stricken by high-altitude pulmonary edema, a potentially
life-threatening lung ailment.
He was accompanied to the summit by four Nepalese sherpas — Lhakpa
Tsherinng, Da Sonam, Tashi Tshering and Norbu — and another American,
Jeffrey Rhoads, who had already accomplished the feat on May 20.
Rhoads, 43, is a photographer and mountain guide from Pocatello,
The men stayed at the top of the world for 20 minutes, the tourism
After losing his foot, Whittaker founded the Cooperative Wilderness
Handicapped Outdoor Group, known as C.W. HOG, a program that uses adventure
to help the disabled rebuild their esteem. In 1989, Newsweek magazine
honored him as one of “Americas Unsung Heros.”
Whittaker had made two previous attempts to reach the summit of
Everest, in 1989 and 1995.
In an interview with Reuters in March, Whittacker said he was
determined to be the first disabled person to climb Everest and show what
the disabled can accomplish.
He said that it takes him 30 to 35 percent more energy to climb
mountains than able-bodied people.
Whittaker scaled Everest by the standard Nepalese route via the
southeast ridge during Tuesday night. He had left his highest camp, at
26,000 feet at 11 p.m.
Whittaker had said he would be using an oxygen tank during the last
two days of his final push for the top.
Reuters contributed to this story.
Ian Gregson (mailto:[email protected])
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