Published in the Australian Newspaper, May 2018

Four years ago Steve Plain lay in a Perth hospital bed with a broken neck. Yesterday he stood on top of the world. Accompanied by a UK guide, Jon Gupta and Pemba Sherpa, the Western Australian adventurer reached the summit of Mount Everest at around 6am on Monday May 14, climbing along the Southeast ridge, the same route pioneered by Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953. In reaching the summit the team became the first party to make it to the top of the 8848 metre high mountain this climbing season. It also launched Plain into the record books, becoming the fastest man to conquer the highest mountain on each of the seven continents, completing the challenge with more than a week to spare. It’s a remarkable achievement for a man who doctors told may never walk again. The Australian is among more than 600 people vying for the summit during the short window of opportunity the weather offers during May each year.

Gupta sent out a message from the summit. “Totally epic and absolutely incredible – the best feeling in the world. Yes, we are crying!”

But the task isn’t over for the team as they embark on the descent, typically the most dangerous part of the climb. If all goes well they will back at Base Camp on the Nepal side of the mountain around midday on May 16.

Plain’s journey to Mount Everest is nothing short of extraordinary. In December 2014 he was swimming at Cottesloe Beach in Perth when a wave drove him headfirst into the sand. He says the wave was so small that you’d ridicule him if you saw it. The freak event left him instantly paralysed, unable to get his face above the water to breathe. A friend and two surf life savers rushed to his rescue and pulled him in to shore. Hospital scans showed injuries consistent with someone who had been hanged. He sustained multiple fractures of his C2, C3 and C7 vertebra, along with a contorted spinal cord and a dissected arterial artery.

Plain says he dug himself out of a hole of “self-pity, frustration and anger” during his rehabilitation and set himself the goal of climbing the seven summits. It became known as “Project 7in4,” and Plain hopes to raise awareness and money for two causes close to his heart: SpinalCure Australia and Surf Live Saving Australia. With yesterday’s success, the two organisations couldn’t hope for a better ambassador.

Fellow Australian Alyssa Azar is currently on the Tibetan side mountain attempting to reach the summit for the second time. She became the youngest Australian to reach the summit in 2016, at age 19. She hopes to make her own summit push in the coming days.

Read the article online here