Climber, 73, finally felt old at summit of Everest

Associated Press Modified: May 25, 2012 at 7:46 pm •  Published: May 25, 2012
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KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) — The oldest woman to climb Mount Everest said she finally felt she had gotten old when she scaled the world's highest peak last weekend.

Tamae Watanabe, 73, beat her own age record for an Everest climb by a woman set 10 years ago. She also recovered from an accident in 2005 in which she broke her back and feared she would never climb again.

"It was much more difficult for me this time," Watanabe told reporters Friday after returning to Nepal's capital, Katmandu, from the mountain. "I felt I was weaker and had less power. This time it was certainly different. I felt that I had gotten old."

She reached Everest's summit from the Tibetan side on May 19, at the age of 73 years and 180 days.

That day, more than 200 climbers were aiming for the summit on the busier southern route in Nepal. Four died, apparently from altitude sickness and exhaustion, on one of the deadliest days on the mountain.

Watanabe, who is Japanese, said what surprised her, compared to her earlier climb, was the effects of warmer temperatures on the Everest.

"There was a glacial lake formed near the base camp from the melting ice which our cooks could fetch water from," she said, adding that she is now encouraged to campaign against global warming.

She said she wants to help younger female climbers back in Japan to take up climbing high mountains.

The oldest Everest climber is 76-year-old Min Bahadur Sherchan of Nepal, who ascended in 2008.