Miura becomes oldest atop Everest

'World's best feeling,' octogenarian proclaims from tallest mountain

Kyodo, AP

Eighty-year-old Yuichiro Miura has become the oldest person to scale Mount Everest, his management office said Thursday.

In his third successful attempt to climb the 8,848-meter peak, Miura and his Sherpas left the last base camp at 8,500 meters shortly after 2 a.m. local time and reached the summit less than seven hours later, according to information received by the office in Tokyo.

Miura broke the record of Nepali climber Min Bahadur Sherchan, who conquered the world’s highest peak at age 76 in 2008. Sherchan, now 81, is also making another try at the summit.

Miura, who climbed Everest in 2003 and 2008, arrived at the first base camp at 5,300 meters April 16 with his second-oldest son, Gota, 43, and their Sherpas.

Miura and his son called the Tokyo-based support team from the summit, prompting his daughter, Emiri, to smile broadly and clap her hands.

“I made it!” Miura said over the phone. “I never imagined I could make it to the top of Mount Everest at age 80. This is the world’s best feeling, although I’m totally exhausted. Even at 80, I can still do quite well.”

The climbers planned to stick around the summit for about half an hour, take photos and then start to descend, his office said.

Nepalese mountaineering official Gyanendra Shrestha, at Everest base camp, confirmed Miura had reached the summit, making him the oldest person to do so.

After leaving the base camp on May 16, Miura passed through six camps, more than usual, climbing well without suffering from altitude sickness.

After reaching about the 7,000-meter level, he started inhaling oxygen. When he tackled the Lhotse Face, an ice wall rising at an angle of around 45 degrees, Miura climbed faster than younger climbers in another party.

Miura’s daughter, 52, stayed in contact with her father’s expedition from the Tokyo office. “I am very proud of my father because he continues to challenge what is possible for him,” she said.

The Nepalese climber Sherchan was preparing to scale the peak next week despite digestive problems he suffered several days ago. On Wednesday, he said by phone from the base camp that he was in good health and “ready to take up the challenge.”

Sherchan’s team is also facing financial difficulties. It hasn’t received the financial help that the Nepal government announced it would provide them. Purna Chandra Bhattarai, chief of Nepal’s mountaineering department, said the aid proposal was still under consideration.

On his expedition’s website, Miura explained his attempt to scale Everest at such an advanced age: “It is to challenge (my) own ultimate limit. It is to honor the great Mother Nature.

“And if the limit of age 80 is at the summit of Mount Everest, the highest place on Earth, one can never be happier,” he said.

Miura conquered the mountain despite undergoing heart surgery in January for irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia, his fourth heart operation since 2007, his daughter said. He also fractured his pelvis and left thigh bone in a 2009 skiing accident.

Miura gained fame as a daredevil speed skier. He skied down Everest’s South Col in 1970, using a parachute to brake his descent, a feat was captured in the Oscar-winning 1975 documentary, “The Man Who Skied Down Everest.”