Culture

Marine Who Lost Leg in Combat Scales Mount Everest

A Marine veteran who lost his leg in Afghanistan has reached the summit of the highest mountain in the world.

Staff Sgt. Charlie Linville set foot on the top of the world on Thursday, becoming the first combat amputee to scale Mount Everest. Another Marine amputee,  retired Army Staff Sgt. Chad Jukes, is also on the mountain and is expected to make a summit ascent next week.

Incredibly, this was Linville’s third attempt to reach the summit.

Military Times:

Staff Sgt. Charlie Linville, whose injuries in a 2011 blast in Afghanistan led to the amputation of his right leg below his knee, made the climb as part of “Operation Everest: 2016,” a team assembled by The Heroes Project, a nonprofit group that sponsors climbing expeditions for wounded warriors and active-duty soldiers.

Linville was joined at the summit by project founder and president Tim Medvetz, videographer Kazuya Hiraide, producer Ed Wardle and a team of Sherpas. The group was the first to reach Everest’s summit via the mountain’s north face during this year’s climbing season, according to a Heroes Project news release announcing Linville’s achievement.

Linville’s 2014 attempt to scale Mount Everest was cut short after a deadly avalanche. In 2015, an earthquake caused severe damage in the region and led to the cancellation of climbing season; Linville and his team assisted in recovery efforts, the release states.

This time around, Medvetz, who climbed Everest in 2007, and Linville had been in training since late 2015, including spending time in chambers designed to simulate high-altitude oxygen levels.

This year’s team reached the Everest base camp April 17 and outlasted weather delays before making the final push to the summit on Wednesday, per the release.

As of Thursday afternoon Eastern time, Linville, 30, and the team “are safe and currently descending down the mountain,” Heroes Project spokesman Zach Rosenfield said in an email.

A team including two active-duty soldiers as well as retired Army Staff Sgt. Chad Jukes, who lost his right leg below the knee after injuries suffered in Iraq in 2006, is also on the mountain. A spokeswoman for that team, which is climbing under the banner of the nonprofit U.S. Expeditions and Explorations group in an effort to raise awareness for soldiers’ mental health issues, said Thursday that the climbers don’t plan to attempt their push to the summit until next week.

It appears from photos that Linville had a special prosthesis with sharp, metal teeth on the sole.

If you’ve ever seen a documentary on scaling Everest, you know the last few thousand feet to the summit are a killer. Entering the “death zone” — the last 3,000 feet of the climb — supplemental oxygen barely keeps the climber alive. Every step requires a herculean effort. Oxygen deprivation can kill in minutes, unless the climber has become fully acclimated to life at 30,000 feet.

It’s a nearly impossible task for fully able-bodied climbers. It’s impossible to imagine how Linville pulled it off.

We stand in awe of Staff Sgt. Linville and wish him a safe journey down the mountain.