Double amputee mountaineer Mark Inglis delivers life transformation session at EEMAGINE 2017
Mark Inglis, an adventurer and survivor, spoke at the 10th anniversary of EEMA’s annual convention EEMAGINE on 10 September 2017 about his deadly encounter with fate. His inspirational story is one of hope, determination and survival.
In 1982, New Zealand was hit by one of the worst snowstorms of the decade. During the onslaught, two mountaineers -- Mark Inglis and Philip Doole -- were stuck on the country's highest peak Mt Cook, in their attempt to summit the peak.
The weather warning had said the storm would pass in 3 days, except that never happened. The men had five biscuits, which sustained them the first five days of the ordeal. Meanwhile, to avoid frostbite from the harrowing blizzard, the two decided to wait out the storm in a tiny snow cave. Their wait lasted them 13 and a half days.
"Well, what do you do for 13 and a half days? You make decisions. That's exactly what we do everyday in life. That's exactly what we do in our business. If you truly want to know the meaning of disruption in life, try being trapped in there. There are two reasons we survived - most people won't last longer than a week - one knowledge, and two total faith in our team. We only had one job and that was to survive," explained Inglis, speaking at a conference in Delhi.
When they were finally rescued, the two had 40% of their body weight going from 70kgs to 39. Both the men's legs were also badly frost bitten, and had to be amputated.
"Losing toes is a bit of an occupational hazard for mountaineers. What we didn't realise was that we were going to lose both of them. My response to this disruption in my life came in the form of a transformation, which occurred to me when I was lying in that hospital bed, looking at my frost bitten feet. I had no chance at life until I had these feet removed... When on Christmas Eve they wheeled me to the operation theatre, all I could think was, get these off me so I can get out of here," said Inglis.
But for Inglis, 23 at the time, the story didn't end there. Inglis held on to his passion for life and mountaineering. Two years later, he began studying and graduated with a first class honours in Human Biochemistry. As a researcher, he developed "molecular genetic techniques to aid in the diagnosis of leukaemias." Soon after, in 1992, Inglis got involved with another fascination of his: wine. For 10 years, Inglis continued work as a winemaker, traveling across New Zealand and later Europe.
In all those years, though, he continued to train as an athlete -- he wasn't going to give up on mountaineering that easy.
Between 1990-96, Inglis won one gold, two silver and two bronze medals while competing in Disabled Alpine Skiing on both national and international levels. He also participated in Disabled Road Cycling in 1998 and ranked ninth, respresenting New Zealand. Then, at the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games, Mark won New Zealand its first ever Paralympic Cycling medal, scoring a silver.
"The one thing it taught me was that the magic of standing on a podium, the magic of standing on a stage like this is that you get to see much further. One thing I knew that moment was that I was going to take my life back," he said. "When I reached back home to New Zealand, I did just that," said Inglis recounting that experience.
Then, in 2002, he trained his eyes at mountaineering again. He started by finishing off what he started 20 years ago, and finally summited Mt Cook at 3,759m. Two years later, he reached atop the world's second largest peak -- Mt Cho Oyu at 8,201m.
“You have to have the faith in yourself to step on up. You have to have that ownership of self. The one thing you need in a place like that, is that you have to have the faith. So when I was on top of Mt Cook, I knew I will get my dream," said Inglis. "And that's what I did."
Soon after, he reached the peak he had been waiting for this whole time. In May 2006, Inglis made his way to Mount Everest on his two carbon-fibre artificial legs. The limbs were especially adapted for climbing, but one of them snapped early on in the climb. He managed to repair them with help from his fellow mountaineers, and continued to make his way to the peak. Eventually, he conquered Mt Everest, becoming the first double amputee to reach the peak.
But the hard part had only just begun. "Climbing down Mt Everest was the hardest thing I had every done," Inglis recounted. He temporarily lost his voice due to the thin air at the top. And on the way back, his legs pressed so hard on his stumps that he got wounds and another round of frostbite. But he made it back, anyway. One of the reasons for his successful descend, Inglis explained, was that he didn't take the famous, more used Hillary Step route which is higher and is easier to get stuck at. He chose to take the tougher, but lower path in the North, that offered a better chance for survival.
Now, Inglis has set out on a new adventure. He's a motivational speaker, who has spoken to at least 2,00,000 people. He spends a lot of his time in India, consulting with top executives to change the "attitudes" of businesses. He also leads treks in Nepal every year, to create awareness for his Limbs4All Charitable Trust. The charity "is committed to helping some 400 million people with disabilities around the world."
Inglis has also authored five books in this time titled No Mean Feat, Off the Front Foot, To The Max, Legs on Everest and High Tech Legs On Everest.
Inglis' story is proof that no goal is hard with the right attitude and headstrong determination. His story makes for great learning for anyone hoping to set up a successful business empire -- that despite all challenges, if you decide for yourself to be successful, there will be no stopping you.
"My challenge to each of you -- like me, you'll have mountains put in front of you, don't be just equal to that mountain, be even greater." - Mark Inglis
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