Eighty-year-old Japanese skier and mountaineer Yuichiro Miura has announced his intentions to attempt a summit of Mt. Everest this spring, returning to a mountain that made him famous back in 1970. If successful, Miura would become the oldest person to ever climb the mountain and the first octogenarian to do so.
This won’t be Miura’s first visit to the world’s tallest mountain. He first climbed it back in 1970, stopping short of the summit because he had another goal in mind. As an accomplished high alpine skier, Miura had traveled to the Himalayan peak in an attempt to become the first person to ski down its slopes – something that had previously been unthinkable. But the Japanese man, who was 37 at the time, achieved his goal and inspired the Oscar-winning documentary “The Man Who Skied Down Everest.”
After completing his quest to ski the Seven Summits – the tallest peaks on each of the seven continents – in 1985, Miura then chose to lead a quieter life for some time. But as he grew older, the Himalaya called to him once more and in 2003 he declared that he would return to Everest, this time to climb all the way to the summit. He was 70 years old at the time and when he was successful in his attempt, he became the oldest person to accomplish that feat. He would return five years later to scale the mountain again at the age of 75 and staying on his five-year schedule he is returning this year as well.
At the summit of the 29,029-foot mountain, the air is so thin that it’s roughly one-third of what you find at sea level. That’s enough to make climbers half Miura’s age gasp for air while their legs scream out in exhaustion. The 80-year-old says that he’ll need to regain the strength and energy of a much younger man if he hopes to be successful. He describes his quest for a third summit of the mountain as the “best anti-aging” activity that he knows.
The spring climbing season on Everest begins in early April and will run into June. We’ll know then if it is possible for a man who has passed his 80th birthday to climb such a daunting peak.
[Photo Credit: KYODO]
It will be a very busy day today at the top of the world. After months of planning and weeks of preparation, today is the day that the climbers on Everest will begin heading up to the summit en masse. For most it will be the culmination of a lifelong dream to climb the highest mountain on Earth, for others it will simply be the latest climb in their pursuit of mountaineering greatness.
The road to a successful summit of Mt. Everest in May actually begins in March. That’s when teams of mountaineers first arrive in Kathmandu, Nepal, and start to make their way out to the remote Himalayan peak. If they’re climbing the most common route, from the South Side, they’ll first have to make an 8- to 10-day trek to Base Camp. They can also elect to climb from the North, which is generally less crowded, but in order to get there they’ll first have to cross the border into Tibet. Once they’ve made that crossing, however, they can actually reach BC by car.
After they’ve settled into their respective Base Camp, the process of acclimatization begins. By making a series of climbs up and down the mountain, going a little higher each time, the climbers prepare their bodies for the challenges of dealing with altitude. Slowly but surely they adjust to breathing less oxygen as they hone their technical skills and keep an eye on the weather. The climbers know they need the perfect window of opportunity to reach the summit, as misjudging the conditions can be fatal.That is where most teams have been for the past week or so. With their acclimatization completed, the climbers have been watching the forecast and waiting for high winds to die down just long enough to allow access to the top. That happened yesterday, which allowed the all-important Sherpa guides to complete their work of fixing the ropes to the summit. While they were busy doing just that, a talented team of Chilean climbers blitzed past them and nabbed the first successful summits of the season.
Now, with the ropes firmly in place, the rest of the climbers can begin heading up as well. Over the next few days, several hundred climbers will reach the top of the mountain from both the North and the South Sides. With a little luck they’ll all get up and down safely. After nearly two months away from home, they’ll be eager to pack up and get back to their lives.
[Photo Credit: BabaSteve via WikiMedia]