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Yuichiro Miura set the world speed skiing record at Italy's Kilometer Lanchard in 1964, only to see it broken the next day. (Akira Kotani)

The Godfather of Extreme Skiing

Meet Yuichiro Miura, the man who skied down Mt. Everest 40 years ago

“ ‘Am I live or dead? Which world I am in?’ ” he recalls thinking. “After about a minute, I realized that I am alive. I felt that I returned to this world in the form of human, as Yuichiro Miura. Like the soul returning to the body.”

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The entire descent, approximately 4,200 vertical feet, took about 2 minutes and 20 seconds. Miura’s journey was recorded in the 1975 documentary The Man Who Skied Down Everest, the first sports film to win an Academy Award for best documentary. He also wrote a book by the same title, published in 1978.

Miura’s legend was secure, but there were more summits to conquer. In 1981, he skied Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro, and in 1983 he became the first person to ski Antarctica’s Mount Vinson. In 1985, he added Russia’s Mount Elbrus and Argentina’s Mt. Aconcagua to his bucket list. “After I skied from Everest, I thought my Everest challenge is over,” he says. “I had more interest in skiing from the highest peaks of the seven continents. I did not imagine myself climbing the peak later in life.”

Yet…in the late 1990s, Miura set his sites on climbing Everest. After years of preparation, he reached the summit on May 22, 2003, at the tender age of 70 years and 223 days. At the time, he was the oldest person to summit the mountain. Five years later, he reached the summit again. Both times he beheld the South Col, and both times he thought: “How could I ever done it and survived?”

He’s planning to summit Everest again in 2013, this time from the Chinese/Tibetan side. He would be 80.

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