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Japanese Climber Youngest to Scale Seven Summits

June 22, 1999

Ken Noguchi, on top of the world after making it to the top of Everest. (Jiji Press)

On May 13, 1999, Ken Noguchi, a 25-year-old student at Asia University in Tokyo, ascended to the top of Chomolungma, better known as Mount Everest (8,848 meters), in the Himalayas to become the youngest ever to climb the "seven summits"--the highest peak on each of the seven continents. The previous record holder was a 29-year-old American who set the mark in February 1995. Noguchi began his quest at the age of 16, and achieved the feat over a nine-year period.

Turn of Fortune
En route to his place in the record books, Noguchi conquered Mount Elbrus in Europe (5,642 m), Denali (Mount McKinley) in North America (6,194 m), Aconcagua in South America (6,960 m), Kilimanjaro in Africa (5,895 m), Mount Kosciusko in Australia (2,228 m), and Vinson Massif in Antarctica (4,897 m). When he reached the top of Everest on his third attempt, he made good on an earlier vow to become the youngest to scale the seven summits by his tenth year climbing.

Noguchi was born in Boston, where his father worked as a diplomat, and attended a private Japanese school in Britain while in middle and high school. In his first year of high school he was suspended for fighting, and his father sent him back to Japan alone to "cool his head." There he discovered the book Seishun o Yama ni Kakete (A Youth Dedicated to the Mountains) by world adventurer Naomi Uemura, which prompted his foray into mountain climbing. He launched his quest to reach the highest continental peaks by climbing to the top of Mont Blanc (4,807 m) at age 16, when the mountain was considered to be the highest in Europe.

Noguchi gained admission to Asia University in 1993 through a policy that grants entrance to those with special talents. During his admissions interview he told the interviewer that he would like to climb the highest mountains on all seven continents, except for Mount Everest, while still a student. In the end, he reached the top of Everest as well as a fourth-year student in the school's international studies department, and was given a hero's welcome by the students and teachers upon his triumphal return on June 1.

Noguchi's next goal is to scale Everest from the more difficult Chinese side of the mountain, a task he failed to accomplish in May 1997 when forced to abandon his quest due to poor health. "I'd like to give it another shot," says the young alpinist.

Trends in JapanEdited 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.