climbers

By Debbie Gregory.

It’s been a rough but record-setting week on Mt. Everest.

Amid a climbing season marred by deaths and bad weather,  U.S. Army veteran and amputee Chad Jukes, 32, joined Thomas Charles “Charlie” Linville, a 30-year-old Marine who also lost his leg, as the only two amputees to ever finish the brutal, punishing climb.

Linville, a Marine Corps veteran who lost his leg in Iraq, was the first to reach the top of Mount Everest, becoming the first combat amputee to conquer the world’s highest mountain. He was sponsored by the Heroes Project.

A married father with two daughters, Linville said that his accomplishment proved “that no, don’t you have pity for disabled veterans because we’re capable of so much more than you think.”

This was Linville’s third attempt to climb Everest. Two previous efforts were halted because of an avalanche in 2014 and an earthquake in 2015, incidents that prompted officials to shut down climbing expeditions on the mountain.

Jukes, who finished five days after Linville, was sponsored by U.S. Expeditions and Explorations (USX), a non-profit organization working to spread awareness on the everyday struggle of veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress and suicidal thoughts. Army Capt. Elyse Ping Medvigy, 26, and 2nd Lt. Harold Earls, 23, also reached the summit alongside Jukes.

Earls, the co-founder and president of USX, said he felt particularly inspired by Jukes

After losing his leg, Jukes, an avid climber, didn’t stopped climbing. But this was a harrowing climb even for an expert, with descent with temperatures of minus 20 and wind gusts up 65 mph.

Of Jukes, Earl said, “He’s probably the best climber out of all of us. I just remember seeing him in front of me and, you know, I’m sucking wind and struggling real bad. But then I look up and see Chad with one leg and how much harder he has to work to get to the top than me or anyone else.”

The spring climbing season generally ends in May after which the monsoon season brings bad weather, making the mountain climb impossible.