How 20-year-old Marin Minamiya is about to complete the Explorers Grand Slam

Only North Pole trip remains for her to clinch adventurers’ coveted record of climbing the highest peaks on each of the seven continents, and reaching both poles

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 January, 2017, 1:42pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2017, 11:07am

Marin Minamiya, 20, is about to become the youngest person to conquer the world’s tallest summits on all seven continents as well as journeying to opposite ends of the globe – but she will never forget her first hike in Hong Kong.

“I still remember when I looked down from the mountain, the scenery was so beautiful and special as Hong Kong’s mountains are right next to this concrete jungle,” Minamiya said, recalling her first hiking experience in Sai Kung in the New Territories when she was 13 and studying in the city.

After breaking the record for being the youngest Japanese to scale Mount Everest last May, Minamiya is now only one step away from completing the Explorers Grand Slam, an adventurer’s challenge to reach the North and South Pole and to climb the highest peaks on each of the seven continents.

She will be the 52nd person in the world to complete the challenge as well as the youngest climber – breaking the current record held by a 23 year old – when she reaches the North Pole in April as planned.

Having grown up in more than five different places since she was one and a half years old following her dad who travels for business, Minamiya is no stranger to globe-trotting.

By her teenage years, however, what bothered her most was not having a place to call home.

“I didn’t know who I was. At school I was speaking English, with friends I was speaking in Chinese and with my parents, in Japanese ... and so I was having an identity crisis and I felt that I didn’t have strong roots ... my parents also did not have a good relationship at that time,” the former South Island School student said.

“But when I climbed those mountains [in Sai Kung] and looked back to see the buildings, it made me realise that all my problems or [my] issues in life were such minor things.”

From that point onwards, her mountaineering adventures for the next seven years took off.

Although Minamiya’s hobby is very expensive – her one-month trip to the South Pole cost US$50,000 (HK$390,000) – she worked equally hard at securing funding.

“I would start calling companies up [to sponsor my trips] and do my homework, then spend four hours at the gym training everyday,” she said.

She also learned to fight hunger and fatigue, as well as combat the urge to give up on her journeys.

“To fight all these emotions in order to just get to one point for a few minutes in your life ... you will inevitably become stronger. It is almost like meditating when you are climbing, you feel inner peace and it’s almost philosophical,” she added.

It is almost like meditating when you are climbing, you feel inner peace and it’s almost philosophical
Marin Minamiya, explorer

Two years ago, Minamiya returned to Japan – where she was born – and is now studying full time as a political science and economics student.

But she is already thinking about what to do next.

She has set her sights on attending intensive sailing courses in Australia or South Africa in late 2017 so she can sail around the world to promote youth empowerment.

“I learned it is not about where you are from or what your nationality is – it’s about having a sense of belonging to the whole community; it’s about where you are in this society, knowing who you are and what you can or want to do, that’s important,” she said.