Age may prove a fatal barrier to conquering Everest

CLIMBERS aged over 60 are three times more likely to die on Everest than the average mountaineer, according to a new study.

The age of the typical Everest climber is creeping higher, with records quickly being broken. In May, Katsusuke Yanagisawa became the oldest person to make the 29,035ft summit - at 71 years, two months and two days old. He beat the record set last year by a Japanese compatriot, Takao Arayama, who was 70 years, seven months and 13 days old.

"Younger climbers have a physical advantage, but probably have less experience than older climbers," said Professor Raymond Huey of the University of Washington, one of the study's authors.

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"We used to refer to this advantage of age as the 'Kareem Abdul-Jabbar effect'," he said, referring to a United States basketball star. "As he got older, his physical skills declined, but he was able to compensate and still play at the highest levels. Unfortunately, for older climbers, that effect does not always apply on [Everest]."

The study confirmed many more people in general are trying to climb Everest than 30 years ago and that their average age is rising. Nearly half of all climbers are at least 40, and one in 30 is 60 or older. Prof Huey attributed this to a proliferation of guided expeditions and to older climbers having more money to pay for such trips.

The study found that a climber's overall chances of reaching the summit were nearly 31 per cent - but dropped to 13 per cent for those in their 60s. The chances of dying on the mountain were 1.5 per cent, but they more than tripled to 5 per cent for climbers 60 and older.

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