Summiting Mount Everest is an unsurmountable feat for most humans, but a Marine Corps veteran, who by most accounts has even greater odds against him because he is an amputee, reached the highest point on Earth this week.
While other amputees have summited Mount Everest in the past, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Charlie Linville, 30, became the first combat amputee to reach the 29,029-foot summit on Thursday.
Linville lost his leg in 2011 and used a prosthesis to climb the mountain with the Heroes Project, a non-profit organization that helps wounded veterans reach the summit of some of the tallest mountains on Earth.
Linville told CBS News in April that he wanted to challenge himself with the climb and looked at it as a cathartic experience.
“I was looking for something to completely change myself… and really get rid of the demons that were created from war.”
— The Heroes Project (@HeroesProjectUS) April 11, 2016
Following Thursday’s summit, Linville’s Mount Everest team provided an update on their well-being.
“The team is healthy and safe and currently descending the mountain.”
Mount Everest was not Linville’s first high-peak summit. While he has already reached the summit of some of the highest peaks in the world on one leg, Linville said his quest to reach to top of Mount Everest is different.
“Can’t get any taller than Everest, you know? There is nothing else.”
According to its website, The Heroes Project, the nonprofit organization that helps catastrophically injured war veterans climb the world’s tallest mountains, was founded by former Hells Angel biker Tim Medvetz, who suffered life-threatening injuries in a motorcycle crash and summited Mount Everest in 2007.
“The team is healthy and safe and currently descending the mountain,” the group said in a statement announcing the feat.
— The Heroes Project (@HeroesProjectUS) May 20, 2016
A member of a bomb-disposal unit in Afghanistan in 2011, Linville stepped on a land mine and suffered a traumatic brain injury, an amputated finger, and a severely damaged foot. After 14 surgeries over 18 months, he made the difficult decision to amputate his leg below the knee.
The married father of two recalled his difficult days of recovery and the ultimate decision to amputate his leg.
“Every day was just pain and pain killers… and eventually I made the decision to have it amputated below the knee.”
Medvetz said Linville’s decision to summit Mount Everest is pretty typical of the war hero.
“Out of all of the military branches, he enlists in the Marine Corps. Then he gets out of boot camp and decides, ‘I’m going to start defusing bombs, one of the most dangerous jobs in the Marine Corps.’ Then he tells the doctor, ‘Cut my leg off.’… I’m like — that’s the guy. That’s the guy. Because you don’t make those decisions in your life without being strong here [in the head] and here [in the heart]. And you can ask anybody, interview anybody who’s climbed Everest and they all have that same attitude.”
Linville attempted a summit on Mount Everest in 2014, but following a deadly avalanche that claimed the lives of 16 Nepalese guides, the climbing season was halted.
A second attempt in 2015 was also halted when the 7.8 earthquake hit Nepal, killing nearly 9,000 people. Instead of reaching the summit, Linville and Medvetz turned their attention to relief efforts, as Linville recalls.
“It was a difficult time coming home last summer and like soul searching and really being like, ‘Can I do this again?’… But at the end of the day, we set to do this mission and be successful.”
Medvetz said Linville’s accomplishment is nothing short of awe-inspiring.
“All of a sudden you turn on the TV and here’s a guy with one leg climbing Everest. If that don’t get you off your butt to… take back your life, I don’t know what is.”
[Photo by Niranjan Shrestha/AP Images]