A 73-year-old Japanese woman beat her own world record for a second time when she reached the peak of the world's highest mountain on Saturday morning making her the world's oldest woman to conquer Mt. Everest.
Asian Trekking's International Everest Exp.2012 leader Tamae Watanabe of Japan reached the 8,850 metre (29,035 feet) summit with Japanese mountaineer and photographer, Noriyuki Muraguchi and three Nepali Sherpa guides on Saturday morning, said Ang Tshering Sherpa, who runs the Asian Trekking company, which provided logistics to the team, Reuters reported.
"Watanabe and other climbers are in good physical condition. They are descending to their last camp which is located at an altitude of 8,300 metres (27,230 feet)," he said.
Mt. Everest has two main climbing routes, the southeast ridge from Nepal and the north ridge from Tibet.
Watanabe's team made the ascent from the north ridge route that begins in Tibet.
According to the Associated Press, Watanabe and her team left the last high altitude camp located at 8,300 meters (27,225 feet) Friday night at 9pm.
They climbed all night before reaching the summit Saturday morning at 7:00am on the 19th of May. After summit, they began their decent down to Camp 3 (8300m) at 3 pm and after resting an hour, they further decent down to Camp 2 (7700m) for night stop, Everest News reported. The summit team of Watanabe arrived ABC (6400m) at 4 pm Sunday.
On May 16, 2002, she successfully scaled the mountain from the southeast ridge route in Nepal at the age of 63, a record that stood for a decade until Watanabe herself broke it Saturday. This is her 6th summit of 8000m peaks.
ABC Radio Australia says that Watanabe is a retired office worker from Yamanashi Prefecture.
"Asian Trekking family extends our hearty Congratulations for the grand success and wish for safe return," says Sherpa.
Little did he know, but shortly after announcing the triumph of Watanabe, Ang Tshering Sherpa of the Asian Trekking adventure agency would be announcing a tragedy.
"Asian Trekking is extremely sad to announce the death of Dr. Eberhard Schaaf of Germany at the south summit of Mt.Everest on 19th May," Sherpa said in a press release.
"After assessing the symptoms, the medical staff at the Himalayan Rescue Association believe the cause of death to be High Altitude Cerebral Edema.
"Our thoughts go out to the family of the deceased at this moment and we offer any assistance at this difficult time,"
Schaaf, 61, from Aachen, Germany, who was climbing with the Asian Trekking's Eco Everest Expedition to remove decades-old garbage from the mountain, died on Saturday along the normal Southeast Ridge Route on the 8,850 metre (29,035 feet) peak, Sherpa told AFP.
"Most of these deaths occur due to high altitude sickness," said Sherpa. "Climbers spend their energy on the ascent and they are exhausted and fatigued on the descent."
Mount Everest straddles the top of the world over the Nepal-Tibet border. It has been scaled by 3,700 people since New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa first climbed it in 1953.
The first clear weather conditions of the spring climbing season were Friday and Saturday, but a windstorm swept the higher altitudes of the mountain by Saturday afternoon, said Gyanendra Shrestha of Nepal's Mountaineering Department.
An estimated 150 climbers reached the summit on either day, most of them on Saturday.
"There was a traffic jam on the mountain on Saturday. Climbers were still heading to the summit as late as 2:30 p.m. which is quite dangerous," Shrestha told The Associated Press by telephone from Everest's base camp.
Climbers are advised to not attempt to reach the summit after 11 a.m. The area above the last camp at South Col is nicknamed the "death zone" because of the steep icy slope, treacherous conditions and low oxygen level.
"With the traffic jam, climbers had a longer wait for their chance to go up the trail and spent too much time at higher altitude. Many of them are believed to be carrying limited amount of oxygen not anticipating the extra time spent," Shrestha said.
Schaaf summitted at 11:05 am with Pasang Temba and Pemba Sherpa.