Inglis keen to talk with Sir Ed

By Jarrod Booker

Double amputee Mark Inglis hopes to explain to Sir Edmund Hillary why he and his team could not stop to help a dying mountaineer on their way up Mt Everest.

Inglis returned home yesterday to a warm welcome from family and friends, but his feat is still partially overshadowed by the controversy over the death of Briton David Sharp.

Members of Inglis' climbing team tried unsuccessfully to help Sharp, who lay frozen and near death in a cave, but Sir Edmund criticised Inglis and his team for leaving him to die.

Inglis was not willing to discuss the circumstances with the Herald yesterday because of a commitment to Sharp's family, but was keen to explain it to Sir Edmund.

"I would love to have a chat with him. I would be more than happy to explain it to him confidentially," Inglis said.

"I have only met Sir Ed a couple of times, and I guess my big concern is ... there is so little hard information and people have just made up their own. And it really has done the whole situation a serious disservice."

Inglis said he and the other 39 people on the mountain knew exactly what the circumstances were.

"But a lot of it is confidential, because that's what the family wants. For me it's not a debate."

After a private reunion with his family at Christchurch Airport, wheelchair-bound Inglis was brought out by his wife, Anne, to meet a large media contingent and a cheering crowd of about 100.

An emotional Inglis said he was overwhelmed and "very relieved" to be home.

"It's been a long trip - on my legs, on my arse, on a yak, on people's backs, on everything, just to make sure I can get home with my [leg] stumps in good nick.

"It's the start of another journey really. [To] get my stumps right, get my fingers right and go out and do something with what I have had the privilege to be able to experience."

He was unsure about the prognosis for his blackened frostbitten fingers. One was "not looking too crash-hot. I've had frostbite on my fingers before. They have come right. It takes time. Like a good cheese, really.

"The stumps are a wee bit more problematic. I gave them a wee bit of a hammering ... and it was very, very hard to manage those on the back of a yak and everywhere else. I under-estimated [the climb]."

Inglis said he planned "heaps more projects". But "none of them involve a very high mountain, I can assure you".

After a chance to reflect, he felt "chuffed" about what he had achieved.

"It's one of the hardest things I have done in my life. Mountaineering is a bit of an exam. I think I came home with a C-plus or a B-minus.

"It's a disappointment not to able to walk home. I guess I always forget I am a double amputee."

Inglis' daughter Lucy, 24, said she was thankful to have her father home safely. "And to be able to keep an eye on him and stop him doing anything else too exciting. We're not big talkers - I started abusing him again after five minutes."

The controversy over Sharp had been tough on the family.

"I took it really personally, which I probably shouldn't have. It's hard when you are sitting here and people are saying such horrible things about him," she said.

Engineer Wayne Alexander, who joined the climb and built Inglis' artificial legs, said the effort was inspirational.

"You had to see it to believe it. I have never seen such endurance and perseverance. He climbed with a lot of able-bodied people there who couldn't climb like Mark. There were so many opportunities to stop, to turn around, to play it safe," Mr Alexander said.

"Unless you have been there it is hard to imagine. But you don't have to stretch the head a long way to work out what minus 35C is. You don't survive long in those temperatures, especially if you stop moving."

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