The Oldest Person To Climb Mount Everest May Surprise You

As Earth’s highest mountain at 29,035 feet above sea level, Mount Everest has been attracting climbers, adventurers, and dreamers for decades. The first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest were New Zealand climber Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, a Sherpa, in 1953. But expeditions from around the world had been attempting the climb since 1921 (per History).

Today, most climbers climb the southeast ridge from Nepal, the easiest of the two main routes available and the one used by Hillary in the 1950s. The northern route from Nepal wasn’t successfully used until 1960 and it’s still considered the more difficult route (via EverestHistory).

Climbing Everest isn’t a quick or easy task. It takes about two months to complete the climb, much of which is spent at Base Camp or other peaks acclimatizing to the altitude. Most climbers arrive in the second half of March with the goal of reaching the summit by mid-May (via BMC). Success rates have increased significantly over time, though. Between 1990 and 2005, about 32% of climbers reached the summit, but between 2006 and 2019, the success rate was over 60% (via markhorrell.com).

As of 2021, over 300 people have died while attempting to climb Everest and most of the bodies are still on the mountain. According to Climber News, it is simply too difficult and too expensive to retrieve bodies, especially when they are in the Death Zone at an altitude of about 26,000 feet. The success rate for climbing Everest declines sharply after you reach 40 years of age — which makes older climbers all the more impressive.

Everest's oldest climber is a pretty impressive adventurer

Just to prove that you’re never too old to try … well, anything, meet Yuichiro Miura, a Japanese skier, alpinist, and high school principal. Born in 1932, Miura is the oldest person to ever summit Mount Everest — and he did it three times. He was the oldest person to climb when he first did it in 2003, at the age of 70. He did it again in 2008 when he was 75 years old (via Seiko Watches). He’s now listed in the Guinness World Records for his 2013 climb, when he was 80 years and 223 days old. On his last climb, Miura was unable to make it all the way to base and had to be helicoptered down from Camp 2 to Kathmandu.

This alone is an impressive feat, but Miura has also had four heart surgeries and in 2009 needed an additional operation after he broke his pelvis in a skiing accident (via The Scotsman). He credits healthy eating, organic food, and lots of training for his recovery and achievements, as reported by The Telegraph.

If that’s not impressive enough, Miura was also the first person ever to ski down Mount Everest. It happened in 1970 and he descended over 4,000 feet in less than two and a half minutes at hair raising speeds — a feat that became the Oscar-winning documentary, “The Man Who Skied Down Everest.” Six years earlier, he had also set the world speed-skiing record at 107 miles per hour (per Smithsonian Magazine).

Miura has some competition when it comes to older climbers

While Miura’s feat of climbing Everest at 80 is certainly awe-inspiring, there are others who are just as inspirational. Nepali climber Min Bahadur Sherchan broke Miura’s record in 2008 when he became the oldest person to climb Everest at the age of 77. Miura regained the title in 2013, but Sherchan remains the second oldest climber ever, according to Oldest.org.

Then there’s the oldest woman to summit Everest, Tamae Watanabe from Japan completed the climb at the age of 73. Interestingly, there are several other Japanese citizens in the top 10 list of oldest people to climb Everest, including 71-year-old Katsusuke Yanagisawa and 70-year-old Takao Arayama. Tomiyasu Ishikawa, a Japanese climber who was 65 at the time he climbed Everest, is also the oldest person ever to climb the tallest peaks of all seven continents (via Oldest.org).

Up until 2020, the oldest American to climb Everest was Bill Burke. According to Oldest.org, Burke is a bit of a legend and even had a Nepali mountain peak named after him because of his mountaineering reputation. He’s summitted Everest twice, at the ages of 67 and 72, plus he’s made an additional four attempts.

In 2021, 75-year-old Arthur Muir beat Burke’s 2014 record as the oldest American to complete an Everest climb (via Today).

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