Japanese Octogenarian Becomes Oldest Man to Reach Summit of Mount Everest

Yuichiro Miura has reached the summit of Mount Everest three times.

ByABC News
May 23, 2013, 12:51 AM

TOKYO, May 23, 2013— -- Japanese climber Yuichiro Miura, 80, reached the top of Mount Everest Thursday, becoming the oldest man to scale the world's highest mountain.

Miura and his nine-person team climbed up the southeast ridge, using the same route pioneered by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norway 60 years ago, when they became the first people to reach the summit.

The Japanese climber, accompanied by his 43-year-old son, two other Japanese, and six Nepali sherpas, set out for the so-called "death zone" -- the last, and most treacherous leg of his Everest trek - around 2 a.m. local time, making the final 1,140-foot summit, in roughly seven hours.

At Miura's Tokyo office, his family, including his wife and two daughters, huddled around the phone for word of his successful climb, chronicling every step on Facebook.

When the call finally came in, the room, packed with reporters, erupted in applause.

"This is the best feeling in the world," Miura said, from the summit in a phone call to his family. "I never imagined I would become the oldest man to get here, at 80. There's no greater feeling in life, but I've never felt this tired either."

The climb marks the third time Miura has summited Everest, a successful feat in itself, but even more remarkable considering his age and his medical history. He has had four heart surgeries to treat recurring arrhythmia, including one just two months before he set out on his latest journey. In 2009, a skiing accident left him with a broken pelvis and fractured thigh.

Discussing the hurdles of climbing at such an old age, the octogenarian said, it was to challenge his "ultimate limit.""It is to honor the great Mother Nature," he said on a statement posted on his website. "Hoping to raise even an inch of human possibility."

Miura didn't attempt his first climb to the top of Everest until 2003, when he was 70 years old. He made that trek with his son, a former Olympian, and set a world record as the oldest climber to successfully scale the mountain. Five years later, he returned again -- at 75 years old -- to set another record.

Rival climber, Nepal's Min Bahadur Sherchan, has matched him every step of the way, shattering Miura's records. In 2008, he successfully made the climb to Everest's summit one day before Miura, at the age of 76 and 340 days, according to the Guinness World Records site.

Sherchan, now 81, is attempting yet another trip to the summit in hopes of beating the record Miura set today on Everest.

Together, the octogenarians have defied the limits of human possibility. At 8,848 meters (29,030 feet), oxygen concentration at the summit is a third of that at sea level. At such high altitudes, the physical condition of the body ages 70 years -- making the climbers' aerobic capacity 150 years and older, according to Miura's team.

Yuichiro Miura has spent a lifetime defying the odds.

In his younger years, he skied down Mount Everest's South Col, an adventure that was documented in the 1975 Academy Award winning documentary, "The Man Who Skied Down Everest." Not satisfied, Miura summited and skied down all seven summits of the world, by his 50s.

Miura has already discussed his next venture -- skiing down the Himalayan mountain of Cho Oyu, the sixth highest mountain in the world.

He hopes to take on that challenge five years from now when he is 85 years old.

More than 200 people have died trying to scale Everest, since the first successful attempt in 1953.

A few weeks into the climbing season at Everest this year, several records have already been set. Last weekend, Raha Moharrak became the first Saudi Arabian woman to reach the summit, while 30-year-old Sudarshan Gautam, a Canadian born in Nepal, became the first double amputee to conquer the summit.