LONDON-Hari Budha Magar is laughing. He does that a lot. The ex-soldier turned mountaineer was being reminded that even at the top of the world in the freezing cold, there’s no danger of him getting frostbitten toes. Because he doesn’t have any.

Magar, a double above the knee amputee, is sitting in a southwest London charity office with his fundraising adviser hatching a plan to climb Mount Everest next spring. It won’t be the first time he’s tried to make the world-first ascent. As Magar puts it, he has climbed more than one Everest just to get to this point. But 2020 might finally be the year that he realizes his dream.

Magar grew up in a village in western Nepal, far from Everest. He would walk to school barefoot, and read about Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s first summit in 1953 in his textbooks. “I used to think ‘What about me climbing that mountain?’” he recalls. Everest was for the privileged, however, and he was not.

He joined the military aged 19 and passed the rigorous selection process for the elite Royal Gurkha Rifles, part of a brigade composed of Nepalese soldiers which has served in the British Army for over 200 years. Magar served across five continents in roles including sniper, covert surveillance and team medic. Then in 2010 an improvised explosive device detonated when he was on patrol in Afghanistan. “My life changed like that,” he says, snapping his fingers.

He was rescued by American soldiers and underwent two operations at Bagram Air Base before being flown to the UK for further treatment. Four years after sustaining his injuries, he was discharged from the military with the rank of corporal. He was 35.

“After my injury I just didn’t know where to start life,” he says. “To be honest I struggled, because I couldn’t go to the toilet myself, I couldn’t eat (by) myself or wash myself initially.”

Magar built himself back up “one step at a time,” regaining his independence. He took up sports - lots of them - as part of his rehabilitation. In 2011 on a ski trip in the German and Austrian Alps he turned to his instructors and broached the idea of climbing mountains. They said they would help.