Ryman Community News

Mountaineer Mark Inglis says it's not what we think it's how we think

Written by Alan Wood
on May 27, 2022

While forever associated with Aoraki-Mt Cook and mountaineering, double amputee Mark Inglis has another passion – for cycling, cycling trails and his new electric bike.

Since losing both legs, as a result of an enforced stay on Mt Cook in November 1982 with climbing partner Phil Doole (who also lost both legs below the knee), Mark has pushed the boundaries physically and mentally.

He told an audience of Ryman Healthcare residents and prospective residents that more recently he has been manager of the Hurunui Trails trust, which looks after the St James Cycle Trail -- one of New Zealand's stable of 24 Great Rides -- and others. Helping advocate cycling and coordinating the biking trails around Hanmer Springs fits with Mark’s outdoors background.

As well as conquering mountains, he won a silver medal at the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney. While the medal means a lot, so does the ability to jump on his electric bike, which allows him to keep up and socially engage with cycling companions on the trails.

“Cycling has been a big part of my life, mountain biking particularly… I’ve been building mountain bike trails for 20-plus years.

“I ride an e-mountain bike now. I’ll tell you what: the first ride on my e-mountain bike 18 months ago was more important than the silver medal that I cart around with me every day.

“It allows me to ride with legged-people now. As a double amputee, it’s allowed me to ride up technical switchbacks that I struggled with before. It’s called the e-bike smile – you’ll see it with every e-bike rider.”

He told the audience of 80 or more people at The Tea House in Riccarton Park, near Ryman’s Kevin Hickman village, that the silver in the 1000m individual time trial was somewhat frustrating. “1 minute 23.169 seconds is burned into my brain, because it’s exactly 0.2 of a second too damned slow -- for the gold.”

Maybe that reflects his can-do, must-do attitude. He told residents during his presentation to, “never give up.”

He saw his old climbing partner Phil Doole a few weeks ago, and they no doubt shared reminiscences of times gone by. He jokes that he was the chatty one of the pair, stuck together in a snow cave together for 13.5 days to avoid that raging blizzard.

The two climbers were on Aoraki-Mt Cook in late 1982. They’d climbed to the top only to see the clouds rolling in from the West Coast as the window to complete the descent suddenly shortened. “We stuck our nose over the summit of Aoraki-Mt Cook and looked out to the west coast and the big black clouds were rolling in. It was already blowing more than 100kms per hour.” At times on the descent to find a cave, “the winds were picking your feet right off the ground.”

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The story of their 324-hour enclosure in an ice cave was well covered in the media at the time, and the two were lucky to be helicoptered off the mountain alive. They were transferred to Burwood Hospital. On Christmas Eve morning he still had his legs and blackened feet, then on Christmas day he didn’t. “I travel the world talking about change, and I have a gold standard for change… You look down the bed, Christmas day, and the sheets end halfway down.”

Mark and his then-new climbing partner Phil were based at Mt Cook as part of a mountain search and rescue team. They had to work well together during the time in the ice cave, and were thinking of how to stay alive for every second of their waking hours.

Luckily on day seven there was a small break in the weather, which meant that a helicopter team was able to make contact with Mark and Phil and give them hope.

For the past 20 years he’s lived in Hanmer with his wife Anne and raised a family, having stepped away from being a senior winemaker for Montana. Pre-COVID-19, a good portion of his time was spent in Nepal and Cambodia, working on the supply of prosthetic limbs through the Limbs4All trust to those in need, as well as in India advising on corporate change. He has his next trip booked for Nepal in 2023.

The move to the North Canterbury town has also kept him in contact with those he knows in Christchurch such as cricketer Richard Hadlee, who has previously presented his life story to a Kevin Hickman audience. Mark’s early years were in Geraldine, and he has fond memories of building up his knowledge of the mountains, including the Arrowsmith range, and of being part of a group making a nearly successful attempt to summit Aoraki-Mt Cook as a 16-year-old.

He told the audience that Mt Everest remained a must do, as he discovered when he successfully climbed Mt Cook. “Standing there I got my dream back, I knew that if I could do Mt Cook, I could do Everest… really for a lifetime mountaineer, Everest isn’t just about climbing the highest mountain in the world, it’s the climber’s world cup, it’s the game you’ve got to go to.”

In May 2006 he became the first double amputee ever to climb Mt Everest, and he says he tackled the more difficult North Face, in order to have a clearer run to the top.

The frostbite bit for a second time on the Everest ascent when he lost parts of his fingers. He says it’s no big deal, and jokes that he is able to coach young children not to bite their fingernails.

At the end of the presentation Mark was happy to chat to the residents, including Kelvin Gardiner who, with his wife Jill, plans to move into a Kevin Hickman village apartment later this year.

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The move to the North Canterbury town has also kept him in contact with those he knows in Christchurch such as cricketer Richard Hadlee, who has previously presented his life story to a Kevin Hickman audience. Mark’s early years were in Geraldine, and he has fond memories of building up his knowledge of the mountains, including the Arrowsmith range, and of being part of a group making a nearly successful attempt to summit Aoraki-Mt Cook as a 16-year-old.

He told the audience that Mt Everest remained a must do, as he discovered when he successfully climbed Mt Cook. “Standing there I got my dream back, I knew that if I could do Mt Cook, I could do Everest… really for a lifetime mountaineer, Everest isn’t just about climbing the highest mountain in the world, it’s the climber’s world cup, it’s the game you’ve got to go to.”

In May 2006 he became the first double amputee ever to climb Mt Everest, and he says he tackled the more difficult North Face, in order to have a clearer run to the top.

The frostbite bit for a second time on the Everest ascent when he lost parts of his fingers. He says it’s no big deal, and jokes that he is able to coach young children not to bite their fingernails.

At the end of the presentation Mark was happy to chat to the residents, including Kelvin Gardiner who, with his wife Jill, plans to move into a Kevin Hickman village apartment later this year.

About Ryman Healthcare:

Ryman was founded in 1984 and has become one of New Zealand’s largest listed companies. The company owns and operates 45 retirement villages in New Zealand and Australia which are home to more than 13,200 residents and the company employs 6,700 team members.

Media advisory: For further information, photos, interviews or comment please contact Corporate Affairs Manager David King on 03 366 4069 or 021 499 602 or Communications Advisor Maryvonne Gray on 027 552 0767.

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