Shailendra Kumar Upadhyaya aims to become the oldest person and the first octogenarian to reach the summit of 29,035-foot (8,850-meter) Mount Everest in late May. The silver-haired, 82-year-old Nepalese man, whose birthday was April 17, is now at Everest base camp to begin acclimatization.
Upadhyaya says, "Mountaineering is often associated with physical strength. But you have to be mentally strong to accomplish this climb. I want to prove that elderly people like me are capable of such achievements."
Upadhyaya, accompanied by five climbing guides and Sherpas, came to mountaineering late in life so his peak resume is thin. He has, however, climbed 6,467-meter Mera Peak and 6,160-meter Island Peak, both so-called "trekker peaks" in the Everest region, in the past few years as part of his training.
"When I said I would climb Everest, people did not believe me," Upadhyaya told reporters in Katmandu a week ago. "But I'm well prepared to reach the summit." Ramjindaji Gurung, the chairman of the Senior Citizen Mount Everest Expedition, concurs, "Upadhyaya has undergone a series of training exercises and is very enthusiastic about his ascent."
Climbing Mount Everest is an arduous task for a 41-year-old man, a human half the age of Upadhyaya. The current age record for Everest is held by another Nepalese climber Min Bahadur Sherchan, who climbed the peak at age 76 in 2008.
Shailendra Kumar Upadhyaya, a well-known Nepalese politician and social activist, was born in Banares, India. He joined the Indian National Movement on a call by Mahatma Gandhi in 1942 to force the British to quit India. He joined the Communist Party of Nepal in 1950, was briefly imprisoned, and later served as Nepal's ambassador to the United Nations from 1972 to 1978 as well as Nepalese Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1986 to 1990.
Good luck and safe climbing to Mr. Upadhyaya. It's an inspiration that a man his age isn't relaxing in a rocking chair on the front porch watching the world pass by but is instead out there in that great arena of rock and ice, testing his body and spirit.