A flamboyant Texan eager to return home to the United States in time for a reunion with 1950 classmates at Yale University has become the oldest man to climb Mt. Everest.
Richard Bass, a 55-year-old Dallas oil millionaire, reached the top of the world’s highest mountain shortly after noon Tuesday. The climb also made him the first person to reach the highest points on the world’s seven continents.
Bass, who resumed mountain climbing six years ago after a brief spell in his student days, took the title of “Old Man of the Mountain” from Briton Chris Bonington.
Bonington’s reign was brief. He reached the summit only nine days ago at the age of 50.
Another 50-year-old, Czechoslovakian Josef Psotka, set the record last autumn only to die of exhaustion after the climb, the Ministry of Tourism said.
Before setting out for Everest from Katmandu six weeks ago, Bass said he wanted to reach the summit in time to return home for the 35th reunion of his class at Yale on May 30.
He also told reporters he was challenging the mountain because it was a break from “the seemingly endless treadmill of my regular business life.”
Bass trudged up the Himalayan giant with the aid of David Braeshears, 29, of Newton, Mass., who reached the 29,028-foot peak for the second time in his climbing career, the ministry said.
Bass and Braeshears, accompanied by a native Sherpa guide, Ang Phurba, 25, also set a record for the earliest U.S. ascent of the mountain in the climbing season, bettering by one day the first U.S. conquest of May 1, 1963, by Jim Whittaker.
For Bass, who had tried to reach the summit three other times, the feat also completed his “Seven Summits Odyssey,” a pledge made in 1983 to climb the highest mountains on seven continents.
He had already reached the top of Aconcagua in South America, McKinley in North America, Elbrus in the Soviet Union, Kilimanjaro in Africa, Kosciusko in Australia and the Vinson Massif in Antarctica.
The ascent Tuesday via the southeast ridge began in darkness at 2 a.m. from an assault camp just 2,850 feet short of the top of the world.
Ascending with the aid of oxygen tanks through the rarefied air and sub-zero temperatures, the trio reached the summit at 12:15 p.m. after 10 hours and 15 minutes, the ministry said.
The mountaineers hoisted flags of Nepal, the United States and of the “Seven Summits Odyssey” before heading down. The climbers returned to the assault camp after a total of more than 15 hours of climbing, the ministry said.