Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The man who bounced down Everest -- and went back up again.

Three brothers are planning a record 24-hour stay on the peak of Mount Everest [via Newmark's Door]. Well, up on the summit there's cell phone service now, so they can pass the time calling friends. ("Guess where I am!").

It seems mountains just aren't as tall as they used to be. Last year more than 600 people climbed Everest, including a mother-daughter team, and a 76-year old and a 75-year old, the former setting the new record as its oldest climber.

But the 75-year old was none other than Yuichiro Miura, who 33 years earlier was the subject of what is still my favorite documentary film of all time, The Man Who Skied Down Everest, which recorded Miura's two weeks climbing Everest to ski down it in four minutes. He pretty much made the ski run down too, well, most of the way -- sliding, falling and bouncing about the last third of the distance before very luckily slamming into the side of a boulder, which kept him from sailing over the edge of and into a "bottomless" crevasse. All caught on slow-motion film from every angle.

While he was in his hospital bed the press asked him, "Are you going to try it again to ski all the way?" He said, "Hell no." That was in 1975.

But he did climb Everest again, in 2003, at age 70, setting the then-record for oldest climber of the mountain. The record was broken soon after, and he climbed the Mount again last year to reclaim it -- but missed it to that 76-year-old who beat him up there by one day.

Talking about his climb to the top last year Miura attributed such accomplishments to the power of positive thinking.

"If you have a goal in life you have to go through the physical and mental training, forget about age and take up the challenge. I feel like I'm in my thirties."

But considering the difficulty I have getting out of bed in the morning, I find that depressing.

I prefer to think he has a genetic advantage. Miura's father skied down Mount Blanc at age 99.