Dozens head to Everest's summit; 70-year-old sets age record

Friday, May 23, 2003

KATMANDU, Nepal -- A 70-year-old former professional skier from Japan became on Thursday the oldest man to climb Mount Everest, and an Indian-Nepalese army team reached the peak along the original route of Sir Edmund Hillary a half-century ago.

Dozens more climbers headed toward the summit to mark next week's 50th anniversary of the first conquest of the world's highest mountain by Hillary and Nepalese guide Tenzing Norgay.

Yuichiro Miura, accompanied by his 33-year-old son, a Japanese cameraman and six Sherpa guides, reached the 29,035-foot summit after a nine-hour ascent, his office in Tokyo said.

Miura broke the previous age record set by another Japanese climber, Tomiyasu Ishikawa, who was 65 when he reached the summit in May 2002, Miura's spokeswoman Kumiko Kudo said.

The Nepalese Tourism Ministry in Katmandu also confirmed that Miura is now the oldest man to have scaled Everest.

"What was a pure dream, walking up step-by-step, came true and I was able to reach the top of earth's tallest -- Mount Everest," Miura said in a statement relayed by satellite phone.

Miura, a native of the northern Japanese city of Aomori, began his skiing career in 1962 and won acclaim eight years later by becoming the first person to ski down Mount Everest, from an altitude of 26,400 feet. He has since skied down the highest peaks on all seven continents.

The Indian-Nepalese army team was accompanied by seven Sherpas when it reached the summit Thursday.

Indian army Sgt. Jagat Singh spoke from the summit by radio phone to the team at base camp, said Maj. Chandrashekhar Manda of Guntur.

"He just said, 'Summited, summited,"' Manda told The Associated Press. "I could feel tears rolling down."

The first group reached the summit of Everest at around 7:10 a.m., and a second batch about an hour later, said Manda.

A Nepalese Sherpa, Temba Rinzi, reached the summit about an hour earlier, fixing ropes and digging paths for the army team. Rinzi is the first climber to scale the mountain from the Nepalese side this year.

In all, three Indian army soldiers, four from the Nepalese Royal Army and seven Sherpas grabbed the chance to push up to the summit after there was a break in bad weather that had whipped the mountain with winds up to 50 miles an hour, Manda said.

The India-Nepal army team will try again on Tuesday to put more members on the summit, he said, and will miss the celebration in Katmandu of Hillary's and Norgay's feat on May 29, 1953.

"It's better to be on the mountain than partying around," said Manda. "We made it through the same route Hillary had taken. It feels great."

Officials in the Nepalese capital Katmandu said dozens of climbers set out from the final camp at South Col at 26,240 feet last night.

Another group of Japanese climbers made it to the top Thursday. More climbers reportedly set out from the final camp at South Col at 26,240 feet Wednesday night. However, officials said they were still waiting for information on these climbers.

A record number of people are trying to scale Everest this month to honor Hillary. More than 1,200 climbers have reached the summit in the last 50 years and at least 175 have died trying.

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