At 63, Shoko Ota accomplished a stunning feat of endurance. She climbed to the top of Mount Everest and became one of the oldest women ever to reach its summit. (Tamae Watanabe was also 63 when she scaled the 29,035-foot mountain in May 2002.)
Ota was just beginning her descent from the world’s highest mountain peak on May 20 when she experienced a lack of oxygen. Despite receiving resuscitation from her guide, the Japanese internist lost consciousness and died. The exact cause of death has not been determined.
The Tokyo-based Adventure Guides Co. released a statement that said the other members of Ota’s tour group were in good health. Her body was left about 1,100 ft. from the summit until it could be retrieved by authorities the following day.
Ota was in her 40s when she started mountain climbing. In 2001, she scaled Mt. Kilimanjaro in Kenya, Africa’s highest peak. The next year, Ota climbed Mount Cho-Oyu, a 26,900-foot Himalayan peak. Since Mount Everest was first scaled by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953, at least 1,300 people have made it to the summit. Nearly 200 others have died in the attempt.