The five-mile high octogenarian contest: 80-year-old man begins quest to become oldest man to climb Mount Everest... but 81-year-old rival also seeks title

Yuichiro Miura, 80, who has had heart surgery four times is already in the oxygen-deficient 'death zone'

Call it the five-mile high octogenarian contest the likes of which have never been seen before.

Or at least not since five years ago, when two rival mountaineers, now aged in the 80s, previously did battle on the slopes of Mount Everest when they were both in their relatively youthful 70s.

On Wednesday it was revealed that Japanese climber and extreme skier, Yuichiro Miura, aged 80, was already in Everest’s “death zone” above 8,000 metres, where oxygen thins and the smallest mistake or flux in the weather can turn fatal.

Yet if he did not have enough to worry about, it emerged that close on his heels is the 81-year-old Nepalese man, Min Bahadur Sherchan, who snuck in before him back in 2008 to claim the record for the oldest climber.

On his website, the Japanese climber has explained that he is trying to push himself to the very limits of what is possible, both for himself and people of his age. He said his climb is partly a pilgrimage. He also claims that at 8,000m, the body automatically acts as if it is 70 years older – meaning that his physical capability is that of someone aged 150.

“It is to challenge my own ultimate limit. It is to honour the great Mother Nature,”  said Mr Miura, who has apparently reached the South Col, the point from where most climbers launch their bids for the summit. “And if the limit of age 80 is at the summit of Mt Everest, the highest place on earth, one can never be happier.”

Even to be where he is, is a remarkable achievement for the Japanese adventurer. In 2009, he fractured his pelvis and left thigh bone in a skiing accident and in January he underwent an operation to correct an irregular heartbeat. It was his fourth such surgery.

“If he was in his 60s, he probably would have waited for another year or two, but at the age of 80 he's not getting any younger. He has a strong determination that now is the time,” his daughter, Emili Miura, told the Associated Press.

If Mr Miura makes it to the top, he would capture the record. But it would only last a few days if Mr Sherchan is able to follow his him.

The situation is little different to how things played out in 2008 when, at the age of 75, Mr Miura sought to recapture the title of oldest man to summit the mountain. He had set the record in 2003 at the age of 70 but it was later broken twice by slightly older Japanese climbers.

He reached the summit on May 26, 2008, at the age of 75 years and 227 days. But the record cruelly eluded him because Mr Sherchan had scaled the summit the previous day at the age of 76 years and 340 days.

Mr Sherchan, a former Gurkha soldier in the British army who began mountaineering in 1960, walked the length of Nepal in 2003. He and his team said they will make their attempt next week, just as Nepalese officials are celebrating the 60 anniversary of the first successful attempt on Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953.

“Our team leader has just arrived back at base camp and we are holding a team meeting on when exactly I will head up to the summit,” Mr Sherchan told the AP, speaking from base camp. “I am fine and in good health. I am ready to take up the challenge. Our plan is to reach the summit within one week.”

His rival, the Japanese climber, Miura was well-known long before his late-in-life mountaineering pursuits. A celebrated speed skier who described the South Col in 1970, using a parachute to slow his ride, he was featured in a subsequent Oscar-winning documentary The Man Who Skied Down Everest.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an intermediate help de...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Injury Fee Earners

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist personal injury...

Recruitment Genius: New Business Sales Executive / Business Development

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing, UK based I...

Recruitment Genius: Tennant Liaison Officer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An experienced TLO is required to manage, deli...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen