With icy winds howling around her and trying to push her back, Tamae Watanabe kept climbing, doggedly putting one foot in front of the other. Finally, on the morning of May 19, the 73-year-old climber stood atop the world's highest mountain.
"I was able to climb the mountain more pleasantly 10 years ago," she told reporters in Katmandu after returning from her arduous trek to the 8,848-meter summit. "It was much more difficult for me this time."
Watanabe's latest feat beat her own age record for climbing Mount Everest by a woman set 10 years ago.
"Watanabe did it with her mental toughness," said Noriyuki Muraguchi, a photographer and a member of Watanabe's climbing team.
Watanabe started challenging the Himalayas in her 50s.
In 2002, she became the oldest woman to conquer Everest at age 63.
In 2004, she scaled Lhotse, the world's fourth-highest mountain. She joined a select group of mountaineers who have scaled five mountains in the 8,000-meter range.
However, she was seriously injured in 2005 when she fell 5 meters into a dry riverbed near her home in Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi Prefecture.
Her injuries required seven hours of surgery. Afterward, Watanabe continued to suffer pain and was almost resigned herself to never climbing again.
But she was encouraged by her doctor, who told her she could do it if she worked hard on rehabilitation.
In 2008, she made it to the top of 4,374-meter Huiten Peak in Mongolia, which helped her regain her confidence.
Around that time Watanabe began to think of challenging higher peaks, and she learned that her 2002 record on Mount Everest had not been broken.
"I will break it myself," she told herself.
As for her next challenge, Watanabe says she wants to share stories of the splendor of mountains to young people, rather than pursuing "height."
Her favorite pastime, farming, serves as training sessions.
"I like nature," she said.
Asked how she would feel if her record was broken, Watanabe says, with a smile, "I would celebrate that person."
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