Standing 29,029 feet in height, Mt. Everest is the tallest mountain on the planet and a significant challenge to climb at any age. Most who attempt it are in the prime of their lives and excellent physical condition, as it requires a great deal of strength and determination to reach the top. This spring, a Japanese climber has his sights set on a return visit to the summit of Everest and if successful, he’ll become the first person over the age of 80 to reach that point. For Everest historians, the name Yuichiro Miura is well known. He first gained notoriety on the mountain back in 1970 when he became the first man to ski down its massive slopes. Prior to accomplishing that feat, most thought a ski descent of Everest was impossible and Miura’s efforts were recorded in an Academy Award-winning documentary entitled The Man Who Skied Down Everest – an adventure film that remains a must-watch to this day. The film made Miura a celebrity and he would go on to become the first man to ski the Seven Summits – the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. Over time however, he settled into a more quiet lifestyle, far away from the Himalayan peak that had made him famous.
But later in life Yuichiro decided that he had unfinished business on Everest and he announced that he wanted to return to the mountain and this time climb all the way to the summit. That was back in 2003 and he was 70 years old at the time. Miura trained hard for his return to mountaineering, getting himself ready for the challenges that he knew lay ahead. His climb was a successful one and at the time he became the oldest person to ever summit Everest. He would return again in 2008 and at the age of 75, would once again successfully climb the mountain. Now, another five years have passed and he is ready to give it yet another go.
This spring, Miura will return to Nepal where he’ll once again attempt the impossible. If he manages to succeed in his quest, he’ll become the first octogenarian to climb the world’s tallest mountain, reclaiming his title as the oldest person to accomplish that feat. He says that in order to be successful in this attempt, he must regain the strength he had at 40 and face the challenges of climbing in air so thin that it has less than one-third the oxygen found at sea level. He’s even had to undergo an operation to correct an irregular heartbeat just so that he can make this climb.
It remains to be seen if an 80-year old man has the physical capabilities to climb a mountain with the stature of Everest. But at the end of March, Miura will travel to Kathmandu and then Everest Base Camp, where he’ll begin his climb. Something tells me he’ll have a lot of folks much younger than him cheering him on.
By Kraig Becker
[Photo Credits: Rdvany via WikiMedia and KYODO]