Mountaineers are lauding Kiwi double-amputee Mark Inglis as an inspiration after he conquered Mount Everest.
Inglis, who lost both his legs below the knee on Mount Cook in 1982, is the first double-amputee to reach the top of the world's highest mountain.
Inglis and his team of about 16 Kiwis and Tibetans reached the 8850m summit late on Monday night after 39 gruelling days on the mountain.
"It's fantastic. It's just incredible," said Canterbury mountaineer Charlie Hobbs, who was with Inglis when he climbed Mount Cook in 2002.
"To achieve your dreams like that you do have to move out of your comfort zone and I think this is really an inspiration to all New Zealanders and all people."
Anne Inglis managed to talk to her husband by telephone yesterday afternoon – and said while his voice was very weak from the altitude, he did say he had been relieved when he got to the top.
"He said it was very hard and very cold," Anne Inglis said.
She said the team would be making its way down to the advanced base camp last night, and back to base camp today.
Wayne Alexander, who was part of Inglis's group, contacted The Press from base camp yesterday evening.
He said he was expecting Inglis to also reach the camp soon.
"What Mark has done is incredibly demanding mentally and physically. Everest is a much more technical mountain than people realise and Mark had to put a lot of effort in. It was exhilarating to reach the summit, although it does remind you that you still have to get back down," he said.
Alexander added that Inglis was still struggling with his voice which he had lost several times on the trip and that the cold had affected their hands – but said they were all thrilled with the achievement.
Hobbs said while Inglis did struggle on some slopes with his artificial limbs, he worked it out by using different angles and could move very quickly.
"I don't consider him at all disabled," Hobbs said.
"He goes through some pain barriers that some of us don't experience."
He said that on Mount Cook in 2002, Inglis had experienced some difficulties with the connection between the artificial legs and his own legs – but did not complain.
"He was going through some painful times but he didn't say anything because he had his eye on the mountain."
Prime Minister Helen Clark yesterday congratulated Inglis and his team on reaching the summit.
"To reach the summit of Everest is a once-in-a-lifetime achievement for any climber, but for Mark Inglis it will be even more satisfying," Clark said.
"This is a truly remarkable feat for Mark, for New Zealand and world mountaineering."
Inglis's feat has been widely reported by international media from the Bangkok Post in Thailand to Fox News in the United States, BBC News in Britain and China View.
Climbing enthusiast Phil Doole, who was trapped on Mount Cook with Inglis in 1982 and lost both his feet, was thrilled to learn Inglis had reached the top on Monday.
"It was great," Doole said.
He said artificial limbs did not slow down climbers such as Inglis and himself too much, but the mountaineers did have to be careful about preserving energy.
"You certainly notice that you haven't got as much power as everyone else as you're missing muscle, so you've really got to be careful about having enough energy on board," he said.