An 80-year-old Japanese man who has had four heart operations has become the oldest person to climb to the top of Mount Everest.
Yuichiro Miura, who took the standard southeast ridge route pioneered by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay 60 years ago, reached the top of the 8,848-metre mountain at about 9.00am local time, accompanied by three other Japanese climbers, including his son, and six Nepali sherpas.
“This is the greatest feeling in the world,” he told family members and supporters gathered in Tokyo, speaking from the summit by satellite phone.
“I never thought I’d get to the summit of Everest at the age of 80. It was the best feeling to get here, but now I’m completely exhausted,” he said excitedly.
Miura, who first climbed Everest in 2003 and repeated the feat five years later, takes the oldest climber record from Nepal’s Min Bahadur Sherchan, who reached the summit at the age of 76 in 2008.
“The record is not so important to me,” Miura said in April, before setting off for Everest. “It is important to get to the top.”
Miura spent the night at 8,500 metres at the Balcony in the so-called “death zone” before launching his final ascent, rather than traversing the 8,000 metre-high South Col which is used as a resting place by most climbers before the summit climb, said Gyanendra Shrestha, a Nepal Tourism Ministry official.
His ascent had been watched closely in Japan, particularly at the school where he is principal.
There have been daily broadcasts of phone calls and photographs from the climbing expedition – including one night when he and his fellow climbers drank green Japanese tea and ate hand-rolled sushi in their tent high up on the mountain.
A noted adventurer, Miura skied down Everest from the South Col in 1970, a feat that became the subject of a documentary. He has since skied down the highest mountains on each of the seven continents, following the tradition of his late father Keizo, who skied down Europe’s Mont Blanc at the age of 99.
He trained for the Everest climb by hiking in Tokyo with weighted packs and working out on a treadmill in a special low- oxygen room in his home.
Nearly 4,000 climbers have reached the Everest summit since the pioneering May 1953 climb, while 240 have lost their lives on its slopes.
But Miura’s record may be his to savour only briefly.
Nepal’s Min Bahadur Sherchan, now aged 81, plans to embark on his own ascent next week.