Challenge of a lifetime, again

Mr. Yuichiro Miura, an adventurer who is 80 years and seven months old, reached the summit of Mount Everest on Thursday morning local time, becoming the oldest person to scale the world’s highest mountain. We congratulate him on his feat.

His accomplishment is particularly meaningful given Japan’s rapidly graying society and the fact that he is older than the average Japanese male life span of 79.55 years. His achievement will give hope to older citizens and encourage them to try to mount their own challenges in any field they like.

In 1970, Mr. Miura skied down Mount Everest’s South Col, using a parachute to slow his descent. He first scaled the 8,848-meter peak in 2003 when he was 70, and then again in 2008 when he was 75. His ascent of Mount Everest this time came just six days before the 60th anniversary of the first conquest of the peak on May 29, 1953, by New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a Nepalese Sherpa.

Until Thursday, Mr. Min Bahadur Sherchan of Nepal held the record of being the oldest person to climb Mount Everest. He reached the peak at age 76 and 340 days in May 2008, just one day before Mr. Miura made his ascent. Mr. Sherchan plans to scale the peak again next week in an attempt to regain his title. But mountaineering is not so much a competition with others as it is an act of challenging one’s physical and mental limits.

Given the harsh conditions of Mount Everest, it is clear that Mr. Miura’s feat has smashed the commonly held concepts of what physically and mentally challenging feats elderly people are capable of. Above 8,000 meters on any mountain, oxygen concentration is about one-third of that at sea level, and winds can rage at speeds of 30 to 40 meters per second (108 to 144 kph). On his way to the summit from South Col at 8,000 meters, Mr. Miura had to scale extremely narrow ridges and ice walls, and when he reached the top of Mount Everest the temperature was 15 C below zero.

While these conditions would be challenging for a much younger person in the best physical condition, Mr. Miura had to overcome additional personal obstacles, including a fractured pelvis and left thigh bone that he suffered in a 2009 skiing accident. He also underwent four rounds of heart surgery to treat an irregular heartbeat, the last one taking place in January.

To prepare for his latest climb, Mr. Miura hiked around Tokyo wearing leg weights and shouldering a 30-kg backpack. Although 80 years old, Mr. Miura doesn’t hesitate to embrace the latest technology or ask for assistance from others if doing so can help him achieve his goal. He exercised on a treadmill in a special low-oxygen room, used the Internet to get the latest weather information via Internet technology and climbed with the aid of bottled oxygen and the assistance of Sherpas.

Mr. Miura’s approach to climbing Mount Everest holds many lessons for people, young and old alike. With careful planning, hard work and an open mind, just about any goal is achievable.