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Octagenarian mountaineer drops bid to reclaim Everest record

By Manesh Shrestha and Peter Shadbolt, CNN
updated 3:57 AM EDT, Wed May 29, 2013
Min Bahadur Sherchan in a file pic from 2009 when he became the oldest man to climb Mt Everest.
Min Bahadur Sherchan in a file pic from 2009 when he became the oldest man to climb Mt Everest.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Octogenarian climber abandons bid to reclaim title of the oldest man to climb Mt Everest
  • Nepali climber Min Bahadur Sherchan, 81, says government delays have prevented ascent
  • Warmer weather means Mt Everest is not safe to climb
  • Sherchan is a longtime rival of Japan's Miura who last week became the oldest man to the mountain

(CNN) -- An octogenarian climber has abandoned his bid to reclaim the title of the oldest man to climb Mt Everest after a combination of poor climbing weather and government red tape forced him to call off the ascent.

Veteran Nepali climber Min Bahadur Sherchan, 81, had been acclimatizing at base camp, ready to reclaim his title from longtime rival 80-year-old Yuichiro Miura who became the oldest climber to reach the summit of the world's highest mountain last week.

However, a government promise to provide one million Nepali rupees (US$11,200) for the bid -- on which other sponsorship money hinged -- was awaiting government Cabinet approval in Kathmandu.

Team leader Ishwari Poudel told CNN that going up Everest was now too risky because the snow had started to melt, making ladders and other equipment unstable.

He said that since other expeditions had already left the mountain, there would be no manpower available in the event of a rescue.

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The government had also pledged to help Sherchan's bid by waiving the Everest climbing permit fee of US$10,000 but this was also held up by Cabinet delays.

Purna Chandra Bhattarai, the Tourism Industry Division of the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation, said his department, which processes climbing permits, had received the application late and the waiver could only be decided by ministers.

"The government makes decisions following its own procedure," he said.

Sherchan downplayed rumors he was returning due to health concerns.

"When one goes to climb such a mountain there are small health issues," he told CNN.

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Sherchan and Miura have been rivals for at least five years. The two mountaineers first clashed in 2008, when Sherchan, then 76, reached the 29,028-foot (8,848-meter) peak a day before Miura, then 75.

However, it was Miura's ascent that made it into Guinness World Records, forcing Sherchan to travel to London to set the record straight.

Back in Nepal, he gathered paperwork, photos, witness accounts and media reports to confirm his ascent, and his feat finally entered the record books in 2010.

Sherchan earlier dismissed talk that he was making the climb because he was in danger of losing his record. He said he had planned to reach the summit last year but failed to secure financial support.

"Why should I go to set a record? I have my own record. I wanted to climb Everest in my eighth decade," he said before he left for base camp.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the first expedition to reach the summit of Everest: Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made it to the top of the mountain on May 29, 1953.

Before he boarded his flight at Kathmandu airport on Sunday, Miura said he had scaled Everest for the last time.

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If I am unsuccessful, it will be because of the weather. It will not be because of my physical condition
Min Bahadur Sherchan

"I think three times is enough," said Miura, who made his first ascent at the age of 70. "At this point I could not think of anything but rest."

He wished Sherchan good luck but called on his rival to take a photograph as evidence of a successful climb.

Known for his exploits as an extreme skier, Miura made the ascent with his son Gota.

Sherchan's wife, however, was less than thrilled by her husband's late-in-life mountaineering.

"Of course I do not want him to go," Purna Kumari Sherchan said. "I had told him not to go even the first time."

Sherchan was being assisted in his ascent by a Sherpa who has climbed Everest 12 times.

To prepare, Sherchan carried a 25-kilogram (55-pound) load on his back while walking up and down the stairs of his three-story Kathmandu home several times a day.

"If I am unsuccessful, it will be because of the weather. It will not be because of my physical condition," Sherchan said, before he set off.

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