80-year-old says he nearly died on Everest descent
TOKYO • The 80-year-old Japanese mountaineer who last week became the oldest person to reach the top of Mount Everest says he almost died during his descent and does not plan another climb of the world's highest peak, though he hopes to do plenty of skiing.
Yuichiro Miura, who also conquered the 29,035-foot (8,850-meter) peak when he was 70 and 75, returned to Japan on Wednesday looking triumphant but ready for a rest. He was sympathetic toward an 81-year-old Nepalese climber who on Tuesday abandoned his attempt to climb Everest, and break Miura's record, due to worsening weather.
Min Bahadur Sherchan, the Nepalese mountaineer, faced difficult odds due to the brief climbing window remaining after delays in getting funding for his own ascent, Miura said.
"He is to be pitied," said Miura, who had downplayed any talk of a rivalry.
Sherchan became the oldest Everest climber in 2008 at age 76 and held the record until Miura's ascent last week.
The Nepalese climber said he slipped and fell just above the base camp three days earlier, hurting his ribs, so he was airlifted back to Katmandu, where he saw a doctor.
He plans to try again to regain his record, perhaps next year.
"I still have a few more years to make my attempts. I will try until I reach 84 and then quit," Sherchan said.
Wednesday was also the 60th anniversary of the conquest of Everest. It was marked in Katmandu, Nepal, with a ceremony honoring climbers who followed in the footsteps of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.
Miura and his son Gota, who has climbed Everest twice, said things went well during their expedition because they carefully paced themselves, walking only half-days and resting in the afternoons.
"We just beat the monsoon season, and the typhoons are coming," Miura said. "Thanks to good luck and careful preparation and planning, we all returned without any accidents."
"We took our time. You get tired when you are old," he said.
But Miura said he was dangerously weak at the beginning of his May 23 descent. Though he felt fine after he removed his oxygen mask on the summit to pose for photos and enjoy the view, he suffered for it on the way down.
"I lost strength in my legs," Miura said. "I could not move at all."
Helped down by Gota and others, Miura revived after having some food and water at the team's 8,500-meter (27,887-foot) -high base camp.
"He just wouldn't give up. This is the real strength of Yuichiro Miura," Gota said of his father's recovery and persistence in traveling another 2 1/2 hours later in the day to reach their camp at 8,000 meters (26,247 feet).
Miura was a daredevil speed skier in his youth, and skied down Everest's South Col in 1970, using a parachute to brake his descent. He also has skied down Mount Fuji.
Though he says he does not plan another Everest attempt, Miura says he hopes to do plenty of skiing and to "live life to the fullest."
"Before this mission, we held a family meeting, and I was really afraid they'd say 'No.' But they just said it couldn't be helped and went along with it," he said.
"When my father was 99 years old, we went skiing on Mount Blanc. Three generations of the Miura family. It would have been four, but the youngest was 5 and couldn't come," he said. "I hope to go skiing with three or four more generations of my family."
Miura's advice for his fellow elders?
"It isn't just about staying healthy, but it's about having goals," he said.
"You don't need to climb Mount Fuji or travel overseas. Just get out of the house. Enjoy good food. Those are the things we should do," said Miura, who dined on hot pot and hand-rolled sushi and enjoyed gourmet Japanese green tea during his climb.
Miura expressed sadness over the disappearance Friday of Chizuko Kono, a 67-year-old female climber, while trying to summit Dhaulagiri, the world's seventh-highest peak.
"Apparently, Kono just exceeded her limits and lost her strength," he said. "It's a real shame. It only takes one misstep. It's really too bad."
Associated Press writer Binaj Gurubcharya in Katmandu, Nepal, contributed to this report.