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Kyodo News Refusing to rest on his laurels, professional skier and adventurer Yuichiro Miura plans to scale the world’s highest mountain in 2003 after turning 70.

Yuichiro Miura (center, rear) poses with high school students at their Himalayan base camp in November.

Miura holds the record for skiing down the slopes of the highest peaks on the world’s seven continents, including the 8,000-meter South Col of Mount Everest in 1970.

His extraordinary achievements also include skiing down Australia’s Mount Kosciusko (2,230 meters) in 1966 and Mount McKinley (6,194 meters) in Alaska in 1967, and climbing and skiing Mount Kilimanjaro (5,895 meters) in Africa in 1981, Vinson Massif (5,140 meters) in Antarctica in 1983, Elbrus (5,633 meters) in Europe in 1985 and Aconcagua (6,960 meters) in South America in 1985. In Japan, he skied down the 3,776-meter Mount Fuji in 1966.

Miura, who turns 70 in October 2002, has organized a group of five other climbers for the assault on the 8,850-meter Mount Everest and has already kicked off preparations.

He led a group of high school students to the summit of the 5,360-meter Mount Gokyo in the Himalayas in 2000 and plans to climb and ski from the 6,476-meter Mera Peak of the Himalayas in mid-April.

If Miura succeeds in scaling Mount Everest in 2003, he will become the world’s oldest climber to reach the peak and rewrite the record set last May by another Japanese climber — Toshio Yamamoto, 63, who was with a party of Hosei University mountain climbers.

Yamamoto’s feat reflects the ongoing mountain-climbing boom among middle-aged and elderly Japanese.

The five other climbers in Miura’s planned Mount Everest adventure range in age from 55 to 68 and all boast a wealth of climbing experience.

“Japan seems to be down and out these days,” he said. “I want to shock the Japanese people by showing that even a 70-year-old man can do this much. I want to invigorate them amid the aging of Japan’s society.

“The potential capacity of humans is immeasurable and the same can be said of ordinary elderly people. I would like to send out that sort of message. I would not want others to think I did it because I happened to be Yuichiro Miura.”

It is due to this attitude that he is taking a different approach to the 2003 adventure than to preparations he made in the past.

Last year, he stopped watching his weight and intentionally began toning down his physical condition.

“I thought I should first return to the same physical condition as a typical man of my age before starting training,” he said.

Miura is 165 cm tall and his best weight is somewhere between 63 and 65 kg.

At one point in his weight-gaining process, he weighed 81 kg, with his body fat percentage exceeding 30 percent. It was from there that he started building up his stamina.

He first tackled the problem of weight reduction, which fundamentally meant putting a cap on the amount of food he ate. However, he has been reducing the amount of food by about 30 percent because of his forthcoming ascent of Mera Peak. “I don’t feel I’m facing an uphill battle, because I have been on a fairly scientific program,” the veteran skier said, adding that he is receiving assistance from an exercise physiologist.

Slimmed down to 73 kg at present, he is more muscular and the percentage of his body fat has dropped to 25 percent.

He said his method to increase physical strength is applicable to many middle-aged and elderly people. In the future, he said, he will make public the process he has been going through.

Experts say human kinetic ability drops to about 70 percent at the summit of Mount Fuji — against the base of 100 percent at sea level — and to about 30 percent at the summit of Mount Everest.

This is because low oxygen and harsh meteorological conditions rob people of their physical strength. How much this will hold true for Miura when he turns 70 is unknown. He is set to face the situation with cutting-edge equipment, including lightweight and compact oxygen cylinders and high-performance clothing.

Miura also plans to make full use of the latest information and communications technology.

His assault on Everest will be seen on the Internet in real time. He will receive physical checkups at the base camp, getting readings on his pulse, body temperature and blood pressure.

He has also spent three nights at the low-oxygen laboratory of the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya, Kagoshima Prefecture, to study how an elderly person’s body reacts at altitudes higher than 8,000 meters above sea level.

Masaaki Fukushima, head of a school for walking and mountain climbing, said Miura’s chances of running into any danger such as the problem of low oxygen at high altitudes will be low if he takes all the necessary preparations.

“I hope he will attain a monumental achievement,” Fukushima said.

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