Charlie Linville accomplished a feat few people can claim on Thursday when he successfully summited Mount Everest.
Even more miraculously, however, he became the first combat-wounded veteran to reach the 29,029-foot peak, after losing his leg in Afghanistan in 2011.
Linville, a Marine Corps veteran from Boise, Idaho, was climbing with Nat Geo’s “Going Wild” host Tim Medvetz, who is also founder of the Heroes Project.
With support from founding partners Equinox and Chrome Hearts, the grassroots veterans’ organization based in Los Angeles, California, leads mountaineering expeditions with gravely wounded veterans and active service members, enabling them to rediscover their strength and pride by scaling the world’s most challenging summits.
The death-deyfing challenge certainly worked for Linville, 30, who told USA Today before the expedition that conquering the world’s highest mountain would help vanquish personal “demons, showing … people that no, don’t you have pity for disabled veterans because we’re capable of so much more than you think.”
That hard work and dedication paid off when Linville and the team safely reached the elusive summit, almost 63 years after Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made history there on May 29, 1953.
“The Heroes Project was the first team to reach the summit from the Tibet northface of Everest putting the first combat wounded veteran on top of the world,” the organization said in a statement to TheWrap Thursday. Expedition leader Medvetz “took a chance on an early summit bid when no other teams would. The winds on the summit were reaching 50 m.p.h. when the team left their high camp at 3:30 am. It took them nine hours, reaching the summit at 12:30pm and changing USMC SSGT Linville’s life and hopefully inspiring more injured veterans to overcome their injuries from the war.”
Linville, a former member of a bomb-disposal unit in Afghanistan, has been climbing the mountain at the same time as another combat amputee, Chad Jukes, 32. They are part of separate teams climbing for two different veterans support organizations, with Jukes ascending for U.S. Expeditions & Explorations.
Medvetz led his “Operation Everest: 2016” expedition team up the northern route out of Tibet, and with Thursday’s summit, the Heroes Project team became the first to summit Mount Everest’s North Face during the 2016 season. In addition to Linville, the team included videographer Kazuya Hiraide, producer Ed Wardle and “Climb Alaya,” a team of Sherpas Medvetz has previously climbed with.
The summit marks Linville’s third attempt to summit Mount Everest with the Heroes Project, according to a statement from the organization. In 2014, the team was at Lobuche Peak (at about 20,000 feet) near Everest Base Camp when then they decided to cancel their efforts to honor the 16 sherpas who lost their lives in the deadly avalanche on April 18 of that year.
Last year they were once again on the mountain and turned their attention to the recovery efforts throughout Nepal to help those most affected by the 7.8 earthquake that took the lives of thousands and caused mass devastation throughout the region.
This time around, the team arrived at Everest Base Camp on April 17 and encountered delays from a snowstorm before arriving at Advanced Base Camp (ABC) on May 2. They then focused on acclimation training to get their bodies adjusted to the conditions at 21,300 feet. They began their climb earlier this week and pushed to the summit in the late evening of Wednesday, May 18.
After kick-starting training late 2015, Medvetz and Linville worked with Equinox on a program where they would train anywhere from four to six hours per day. As part of that, Equinox created a specialized altitude deprivation chamber that allowed them to cycle for two hours a day at a simulated altitude of 17,000 feet.
During the final two months of training, the pair slept inside a Hypoxico Chamber, which simulated the altitude and oxygen levels at 18,000 feet, and endured a grueling 24/7 training protocol to prepare for their summit.
“It’s a whole movement that has become bigger than Tim Medvetz. And it’s become bigger than Charlie Linville,” Medvetz said of the expedition, CBS News reported. “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.”