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Japanese Man Becomes Oldest Person Ever to Scale Mt. Everest (June 12, 2003)

Yuichiro Miura
Miura and his team at the highest point on Earth. (Miura dolphines/Jiji)
On May 22 Yuichiro Miura, 70, became the oldest person ever to climb Mount Everest, which, at 8,850 meters (29,035 feet), is the world's highest mountain. Climbing Mt. Everest is both difficult and dangerous. Because there is only about 30% as much oxygen as at sea level, climbers refer to altitudes in excess of 8,000 meters (26,245 feet) as the "death zone." When the brain is starved of oxygen, a person's decision-making capability tends to drop, and even some experienced climbers have lost their lives because of mistakes made under these conditions. In addition, even a fit young climber needs to stop for breath every few steps at this altitude. At age 70, though, Miura coped just fine. He made a call on a satellite phone from the summit, saying, "It was my dream. But by walking step by step, I was able to accomplish it and stand at the highest point on Earth." Miura's courageous achievement impressed many people around the world.

Extreme Skiing on Seven Continents
After graduating from Hokkaido University many years ago, Miura became a professional skier. He took part in the Italian Kilometer Lanciad in 1964, where he set what was then the world speed record at 172.084 kilometers per hour (106.9 miles per hour). He later skied down Mt. Fuji and in 1970 skied down Mt. Everest from an altitude of 8,000 meters (26,245 feet), the first time anyone had done so successfully. By 1985, he had skied down the slopes of the tallest mountain on each of the seven continents.

Skiing is a family affair for the Miuras. This past February, to celebrate his father's ninety-ninth birthday, Miura, his father Keizo, and his 37-year-old son Yuta, who was once an alternate on Japan's Olympic downhill ski team, traveled to the French Alps, where they skied down Mont Blanc's Valle Blanche together. The course was roughly 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) long.

Despite his many skiing accomplishments, though, Miura had always dreamed of climbing Mt. Everest. He began planning an ascent five years ago, and he trained hard to get himself into shape. This year just happened to be the fiftieth anniversary of the first successful scaling of Mt. Everest by New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953.

Breaking a Record
The expedition went as planned at the beginning, and on May 11 Miura and his group set out from base camp at 5,300 meters (17,388 feet), aiming to scale the mountain from the Nepalese side. Afterwards, though, the weather turned bad, with heavy winds and snow, and the team was forced to postpone its assault on the summit repeatedly; this meant spending four days in the high-altitude "death zone." The weather finally cleared, and the team set out from the No. 5 camp at 8,400 meters (27,559 feet) for the final leg of the ascent. Miura, his 33-year-old son Gota, and 46-year-old cameraman Noriyuki Muraguchi reached the summit that day.

At age 70, Miura became the oldest climber ever to scale Mt. Everest, bettering the previous record held by another Japanese, Tomiyasu Ishikawa, who accomplished the feat at the age of 65 in May 2002. This occasion also marked the first time that two generations of a Japanese family had scaled Mt. Everest together.

Fifty Years After Hillary
After safely descending the mountain, Miura arrived in Nepal's capital, Katmandu, at the end of May. Just then, festivities marking the fiftieth anniversary of Hillary's ascent were underway. Nepal's King Gyanendra offered his congratulations to Miura, saying, "That was incredible," and Miura received a message from Hillary himself, who was present: "You really did a great job. You have a true adventurous spirit."

Miura made history, and he left a message for the rest of us about life: "No matter how old people are, they can still hold on to their dreams. You have to continue to make an effort to turn your dreams into reality. I learned that if you keep heart and take one small step after another, you can stand on top of the world."

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Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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