Japanese climbing hero succeeds as oldest woman to reach Mt. Everest

Anil Giri – WNN Breaking

Mount Everest Nepal
The summit of Mount Everest in Nepal as part of the broader Himalyan range, May 15, 2003. Image: Paula Bronstein/Getty

(WNN) KATHMANDU, Nepal: On the same day as the unpredicted death of experienced 61-year-old German mountain climber Dr. Eberhard Schaaf who was climbing on the south summit of Mt.Everest only to suffer from what is now thought to be ‘high altitude cerebral edema,’  a 73-year-old Japanese woman reached the peak of Mount Everest on Saturday morning approaching from the other side. She smashed her own record to become the oldest woman to scale the world’s highest mountain.

In addition to the death of Dr. Schaaf, two other climbers died on the May 21 following Ms. Tamae Wantanabe’s triumph. The causalties include Nepal born Canadian Shreya Sah and 44-year-old South Korean climber from Toronto Ms. Song Won-bin, who is said to have died as she neared a region very close to the summit of Everest.

Ms. Tamae Watanabe reached the 29,035-foot-high summit at about 7 a.m. breaking her own record, a record she had set ten years earlier in 2002 when she was 63.

“She is healthy and coming back to last camp,” said Mr. Ang Tshering Sherpa, Chairman of Asian Trekking Internatioal. “It would take another one week to her to reach Kathmandu,” he continued revealing that Watanabe had used the ‘Tibetan route’ to conquer the mountain.

As a retired manager of a local high school, Ms.Watanabe later went on to be a natural history guide for the region surrounding Mount Fuji Japan. Her success follows a major achievement by another Japanese woman climber, Ms. Junko Tabai, who was the first woman to successfully climb Mt. Everest in 1975.

The team successfully conquered their goal at 7 a.m. Nepalese time on May 19. Ms. Watanabe, who now also holds the record as “the oldest woman of Mt. Everest ‘summiteers,’ has also climbed Mount McKinley, North America’s highest mountain, as well as numerous other top peaks around the world.

Along with Ms. Watanabe and her team, approximately 36 mountaineers started making the final push towards the summit of Everest on Thursday night following indications of improving weather. So far this year the weather on the climb to Mount Everest has been increasingly unpredictable, changing in an instant from fair to worse.This was the first summit attempt of the 2012 spring season.

This year the Industry Division of the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation in Nepal has issued climbing permits to 32 teams consisting 337 climbers (325 who are foreigners) for the Spring. Nepal climber Mr. Min Bahadur Sherchan is curretly the oldest man to reach the top of Everest at the age of 76 years and 340 days.

According to official records, more than 3,000 climbers have now scaled Everest since it was first conquered by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Sherpa in 1953. Mountaineering in the region is considered a ‘high- value’ point for tourists coming to Nepal. The government collects around Rs 200 million (approximately $4.25 million USD) in royalties annually from Mount Everest expeditions alone.

The royalty for climbing Everest ranges from USD $ 15,000 to $ 70,000 per expedition, depending on the number of expedition members (maximum seven) and the route. For an expedition having a maximum of 15 members, a fee of USD $10,000 per person is charged.

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Journalist Anil Giri is WNN – Women News Network’s breaking news correspondent in Kathmandu, Nepal.

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