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SPECIAL REPORT

Eyeing Everest for fourth time, when he is 90

He scaled Mount Everest when he was 80, becoming the oldest man to conquer the world's highest peak.

But Japanese adventurer Yuichiro Miura, who turns 84 tomorrow, is not done yet. He wants to conquer the 8,848m mountain again, for a fourth time, at the age of 90.

The adventurer, who reached the Everest summit for the first time when he was 70, has had to overcome a slew of health problems. A midlife crisis during the 1990s, when he made two failed bids to enter politics, saw metabolic syndrome set in.

"I lost all motivation and didn't know what to do next," he told The Straits Times in an interview last month, as he recalled his lost decade.

"I drank and ate too much and didn't do enough exercise. I suffered from diabetes, and had heart and kidney disease."

But his dream of climbing Everest one day and sheer willpower helped him overcome the odds.

POWER OF DREAMS

Even if people get older or are sick or injured, having a dream is enormously powerful for ensuring that they do not give up despite the challenges.

JAPANESE ADVENTURER YUICHIRO MIURA

"When I was 65, it was impossible for me to reach the top of even a 500m mountain that kindergarten children might find easy. Everest was then a distant dream... but I made the impossible possible."

That iron-clad will kept him going - and the mountains, which represent to him the "school of hard knocks, perseverance and endurance".

The 1.64m-tall adventurer used to weigh in at 90kg, and his health problems were so bad that his doctor told him he had "only three years to live".

It was a 180-degree turn for an athlete who, in 1970, became known as the first man to ski down Everest - a feat that was immortalised in an award-winning documentary.

His love affair with mountains began when he was just a child, under the influence of his father, the late adventurer Keizo Miura. What gave him the strength to get out of his rut was his father's determination to ski down Mont Blanc at age 99.

He could have been what he calls "defensive" or "offensive" in tackling his health issues. The former would have involved basic measures such as waking up early and doing light stretches and walks.

However, he decided to whip himself into shape by strapping weights on his ankles and carrying a load on his back, steadily increasing the amount as he walked 9km from the Tokyo train station to his office - and back again - every day.

Gradually, he rebuilt his strength and stamina, and he scaled Everest for the first time in 2003.

He repeated the feat in 2008 and 2013. His third climb proved to be the most challenging as he had undergone two heart operations and massive surgery to fix a fractured pelvis in the interim.

But mindful of the Japanese adage that "older people must reduce their workload by half", he adapted his methods to ease the strain on his body.

And even now, he refuses to let up.

Before he attempts Everest for the fourth time, he has a more immediate goal - to ski down Mount Cho Oyu along the Nepal-Tibet border, the world's sixth-highest mountain at 8,201m, when he is 85.

"Even if people get older or are sick or injured, having a dream is enormously powerful for ensuring that they do not give up despite the challenges. Such dreams are a good way to motivate people to work towards recovery and their goals."

Walter Sim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2016, with the headline 'Eyeing Everest for fourth time, when he is 90'. Print Edition | Subscribe