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Ain't no mountain high enough

By Li Yingxue | China Daily | Updated: 2021-07-12 07:29
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Zhang Hong (third from right) and his team navigate Khumbu icefall during training in Nepal in April. CHINA DAILY

It was a tough situation. At 8,700 meters above sea level, Zhang Hong and his team members faced a difficult decision. Based on the oxygen they had consumed, they might not have enough to reach the summit of Qomolangma. Should they press on or turn back?

Zhang's guide Chen Tao made a quick decision that he and the two photographers with the group immediately withdraw and leave their oxygen tanks to Zhang to let him finish the climb to the summit of the mountain, known in the West as Mount Everest, along with the three high-altitude guides that were with them.

The wind was strong, and Zhang was terrified. The three Sherpa guides didn't speak Chinese and their English instructions to Zhang were muffled by the high wind.

And there was additional difficulty for Zhang-he can't see.

To walk on a path was often hard for the Chinese mountaineer. And there was no actual path on the mountain.

Zhang had to follow the guides' directions precisely on every single step. The guides told him in which direction to go and the length of each step. But one mistake could cost Zhang his life.

At first, Zhang didn't want to continue. But Chen told Zhang "if you don't continue, this may be the last chance you have to reach the top of Qomolangma, while I will still have more chances".

There was no time left for 46-year-old Zhang to argue with Chen and Chen gave Zhang a gentle nudge to hurry him on.

Zhang continued his climb with one guide in front of him and two behind. After several more hours' climbing, the guide leading the way told Zhang that he was standing at the top of the 8,849-meter-high mountain.

At about 9 am Nepal time on May 24, Zhang reached the summit of Qomolangma from the Nepal side, becoming the first visually impaired person from Asia ever to conquer the world's highest peak.

On the rock face of the mountain, Zhang etched his name alongside that of Erik Weihenmayer and Andy Holzer, who completed the feat in 2001 and 2017, respectively. They are the only three blind mountaineers to have climbed Qomolangma.

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