On Everest, there’s always someone older coming up behind you


Back in 2008, Japan’s (then) 75-year-old Yuichiro Miura was about to set the record for being the oldest person to climb Mount Everest—until Nepal’s 76-year-old Min Bahadur Sherchan beat him out, getting there one day ahead of him.


There was no trash talking (so far as we know), but we’ll bet a steely glance was exchanged as they passed each other on the South Col.


That tough break for Miura was followed by four heart surgeries over the past five years, the latest in January. In between coronary interventions, he fractured his pelvis and left thigh bone in a 2009 skiing accident. But when a man decides he wants to be the oldest person to climb the tallest mountain, all of that misfortune isn’t enough to stop him. And yesterday, at the age of 80, Miura finally broke Sherchan’s record.


This is extraordinary, but Miura might not have long to savor his golden moment. Because on Everest, everything that’s oldest becomes young again: next week, Sherchan—who’s now 81—plans to take another run at the top. And recapture the record. And, if it doesn’t have to be amputated, put his frost-bitten finger in Miura’s eye.


Miura is putting the best face on this. Whatever. He’s cool. For now he’s the record-holder (and Sherchan is sand-bagging, talking about his digestive problems). He’s even talking about his next challenge, which will be skiing down the world’s sixth highest mountain, Cho Oyu, when he’s 85. But when he gets to the summit and readies himself to crank those first hard turns down from 26,900 feet, you know he’ll be checking to see if Sherchan is hiking up in his tracks.


Photo: Nuptse, Mt. Everest and Lohtse in the early morning, by Ralf Kayser (2012), via Wikimedia Commons