Thursday, May 24, 2012

Summiting (Tamae Watanabe On Everest)

Tamae Watanabe

KATHMANDU | Sat May 19, 2012 9:09am EDT (Reuters) -

For the second time, a 73-year-old Japanese woman has become the world's oldest woman to climb Mount Everest, repeating her own record set 10 years ago, the company that organised the climb said on Saturday.

Tamae Watanabe reached the 8,850 metre (29,035 feet) summit with a Japanese partner and three Nepali Sherpa guides on Saturday morning, said Ang Tshering Sherpa, who runs the Asian Trekking company, which provided logistics to the team.

"Watanabe and other climbers are in good physical condition. They are descending to their last camp which is located at an altitude of 8,300 metres (27,230 feet)," he said.

Watanabe, who first became the oldest woman to climb the mountain in 2002 at the age of 63, bettered her own record and set a new climbing feat, Sherpa said. She scaled the peak from the Tibetan side of the mountain.

Mount Everest straddles the Nepal-Tibet border. It has been scaled by 3,700 people since New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa first climbed it in 1953.

The list of climbers includes a blind person, a man with an artificial limb, a 13-year-old American boy and a 76-year-old Nepali man.

About 400 climbers are at camps on both sides of the mountain waiting for improved weather to make their summit attempts. Nepali tourism ministry officials said dozens of mountaineers had also climbed from the Nepali side of the mountain.

Kathmandu Stupa


Tamae Watanabe's guts, pluck and skill notwithstanding, why do they do it?  Are they nuts?

Are they artists creating living horror films to enlighten (or amuse) our collective consciousness?

Or simply greedy, preening exhibitionists?

Years ago when I worked at Digital Media On Demand in Boston, far away from my family in New York, I was driving myself home past midnight to my rented apartment in Waltham following our Christmas party at a hip club/restaurant in lovely Copley Square.    

Uncharacteristically I was listening to an NPR station while trying to find my way from unfamiliar city to unwelcoming suburbs.   

Mapquest mistakenly advised me to turn left instead of right at one point and I found myself running low on gas in a shadowy dangerous neighborhood.  

My mounting fright doubled when I heard Dr. Kenneth Kamler being interviewed about his new book, Doctor On Everest (link).  Dr. Kamler recounted (more with ghoulish enthusiasm than sangfroid, I thought) experiences of treating climbers who were in the process of losing  noses, toes and fingers to frostbite, stepping over various dead bodies, and other equally horrid events.  His "bottom line," however, was that "summiting"  made the whole thing worthwhile.

I cannot share the doctor's enthusiasm, even if I thought I might be warmly welcomed at Everest's apex by Zeus and Hera themselves and treated to a feast of burnt offerings and ambrosia en famille with the rest of the Olympians. 

As Sappho puts it:

We know this much

Death is an evil;
we have the gods’
word for it; they too
would die if death
were a good thing

I am happy for Ms. Watanabe that she succeeded in her quest and also that her desire to set another world record apparently did not endanger her expedition companions.  

Like most Everest trekkers, I suspect she and her party wantonly littered, defiling the mountain with their refuse. The news stories rarely mention that aspect of Everest commerce, but they should. 

Tamae Watanabe has a nice smile.

Mount Everest


  1. I have huge issues with the climbers of Everest and other dangerous peeks for many reasons, but one main one --- because there seems to be a strain of thrill seeking in my blood--I tried to redirect my daughter into other things--sent her abroad early and alone, thinking that's another kind of Everest, learning to be a global citizen. Now, when she calls me from the Somali border, I'm not so sure I made the right choice. I suppose if one wants to test one's limits, there are all kinds of ways to do it.

  2. The Somali border - yikes - I understand. (It's nice that she calls.) I have no thrill-seeking in me at all, actually. I don't know why. I used to like big rides (there is a fabulous rollercoaster by the sea in Wildwood, NJ), but not any more. The Everest climber phenomenon should have stopped with Hilary and Norgay, I think. Hearing the doctor's NPR radio interview while driving in that Boston late-night neighborhood feeling unsettled was mountain-climbing enough for me. Curtis

  3. A 73-year-old Japanese woman has climbed Mount Everest. Excellent. But I bet she got to the top and then couldn't remember what she went up there for.

  4. Most likely that's the case. Curtis