70-year-old grandmother abandons Everest climb

70-year-old grandmother abandons Everest climb

Eiko Funhashi, a patent lawyer from Tokyo, would have set a new record had she succeeded, replacing fellow Japanese Tame Watanabe, who reached the 8,848m peak in May 2002 when she was 63. "I felt sad," the stoic Funahashi told reporters after returning to Kathmandu with her fifth assault on the mountain too repelled.

"I didn't get enough acclimatisation. I also had stomach problems and decided to return after I had climbed up to about 6,000m." Funahashi was part of the nine-member Himalayan Expedition Everest team led by New Zealander Mark Wynton Woodward, an Everest hero himself. This is her fifth unsuccessful try after beginning the first attempt in 2006 and keeping it up through the successive years using different routes and teams. Last year, she made a solo attempt with four Sherpas and reached up to 8,500mt. The highest she reached was in 2007 when she was only 40m away from the top. Each time, she had to abandon the ascent due to inclement weather.

Funahashi, married to fellow attorney Kazutoshi, 76, took to climbing 20 years ago after their three children were grown up. She is the only climber in an athletic family that loves swimming and marathon running.  The woman, who has a 13-year-old grandson, runs for an hour every day followed by two hours of climbing to train for her yearly Everest assault.  "I couldn't train more because of my work," says Funahashi who still argues cases in court.

The Everest expeditions have not been easy. Besides risking her life and juggling with work, she has to also raise the astronomical sum required for the adventure. Unlike younger climbers, she has had no sponsors, saving money throughout the year to fund her own trips.

What drives her on to achieve such a gruelling target? "I am also a documentary maker," Funahashi answers obliquely. "In 2006 I began shooting a documentary on my Everest climb. It is still incomplete.  "The documentary can be completed only when I reach the top. I will be back again to finish it."  Women have continued to dominate the climbing expeditions this spring.

The first headline grabber was Oh Eun-sun, a 44-year-old marketing executive from South Korea who became the first and only woman to have scaled all the 14 highest peaks in the world, a feat achieved only by 20 men before her. The first official climber to summit Mt Everest this season is also a woman. Canadian Lucille de Beaudrap, 42, a nurse by profession, became the first climber to summit Mt Everest May 6.

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