CANBERRA, Australia – The first double amputee to conquer Mount Everest said Sunday he has suffered intense criticism for not rescuing a fellow climber on his ascent but has no regrets about leaving the Briton to die.
New Zealand climber Mark Inglis, who lost both legs below the knees to frostbite 20 years ago, reached the peak of the world's tallest mountain on May 15 after a grueling 40-day climb on prosthetic limbs.
On the way, the 47-year-old was among at least 40 people who encountered Englishman David Sharp, 34, who sat dying, apparently of oxygen deprivation, on his way down from the summit.
Inglis' climbing party stopped and one of its Sherpas provided Sharp with oxygen before the group continued its ascent.
Inglis said he had determined that "he'd gone" — meaning Sharp was beyond rescue.
"My family, myself have come under intense criticism for not saving someone who wasn't able to be saved," Inglis told Nine Network television in a New Zealand hospital. "I have absolutely no regret over what I've done."
Inglis twice denied reporter Peter Harvey's accusation that he had left Sharp to die.
"No, you shouldn't leave someone to die," Inglis said, without elaborating on why he rejected the accusation.
His critics include Everest pioneer Sir Edmund Hillary, who — along with Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay — was the first to reach the peak in 1953. In an international furor that has erupted over Sharp's death, Hillary accused modern Everest climbers of placing ambition ahead of human life.
Inglis said he never thought there was more he could have done for Sharp.
"Probably the opposite, really — just get out of the way," he said.
"I was in an environment where there were far more competent people than me," he added, without elaborating.
Inglis is at risk of losing five finger tips and the ends of his leg stumps to frostbite and is continuing to undergo hospital treatment.