There ain’t no mountain high enough

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Kiwi mountaineering legend Mark Inglis insists his days of tackling the world’s highest peaks are over.

Three years ago he became the first double amputee to reach the summit of Mount Everest – he had lost both legs below the knee after getting severe frostbite when stuck in an ice cave on Mount Cook for 14 days in 1982.

Numbing conditions also claimed five fingers and parts of his leg stumps on the gruelling, 40-day Everest climb – and Inglis reluctantly concedes enough is enough.

“There’ll be no more really big mountains for me,” he says. “I’ve lost too many bits and I can’t afford to lose any more.

“I can’t lose any more of the bottom of my stumps as they’re a bit short as it is – and I’m running out of fingers.

“It was a fair wee trim-up I had on Everest.”

For him, Inglis says, taking on a major summit is a two- to three-year project because he can’t afford to climb slower than anyone else – and as an amputee, it takes so much longer to train and also to recover.

“You have to work so much harder than anyone else and do so much more damage to your body,” he explains.

“It means there won’t be a K2 or anything like that from me now, but there are plenty of opportunities left that don’t involve going up over 8000 metres.”

Inglis hasn’t turned his back on the high altitude world entirely.

And he has learned to live with controversy surrounding his Everest climb, when he was criticised by some people for continuing to push towards the summit after his party came across distressed British climber David Sharp, who later died.

Next month he travels to China to train 40 budding mountaineers in snow survival techniques on the 5400m Haba Snow Mountain in the Yunnan region.

“It might only be the height of base camp on Everest – but it’ll be nice to be on a reasonably big mountain again. It’ll feel like I’m home.”

In recent years, sports-mad Inglis, 49, has authored five best-selling books about his amazing experiences and beyond.

A former international skier, after becoming an amputee, the dad-of-three from Hanmer, North Canterbury, went on to win a silver medal in time-trial cycling at the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games.

He’s also in demand as a motivational speaker and was guest talker at the New Zealand Snowsports Awards in Wanaka last Saturday.

Inglis was delighted to see 20-year-old Central Otago alpine ski racer Adam Hall named top snowsports athlete in NZ for the second straight year.

Hall, born with spina bifida, represented NZ at the 2006 Paralympic Games in Turin and is one of the leading adaptive skiers in the world.

“Adam is a very, very focused young athlete and his award was very appropriate.”

Inglis visits Queenstown regularly to address business conferences but admits he doesn’t usually have time to get any snowsports in.

“I do more talking when I’m in the resort than anything else as that’s how I mainly make my living,” he says.

“These days the biggest challenge I face in Queenstown is getting in and out of the place during the winter.”