Dropout Goes to Everest

A memoir by Ken Noguchi. I knew him mostly for his environmental work, but his first accomplishment was climbing Seven Summits at 25, youngest record at that time (current record is held by Rhys Miles Jones, who achieved this in age 20!). The book covers his adventures on Seven Summits. This book only convey first chapter of his life, but I could see his strength and motivation (frustration against authority) for his later work as environmentalist and humanist.

He was raised in elite family (his father was diplomat). However, he did not grow up like “normal” elite kid.

He was first bullied as gaijin (means foreigner), because he was half Japanese and spoke Arabic. Later, as he gained power, he became bully himself. He was never good at studying either. He literally become drop-out student. His classmates thought he got no brain, just one of those bad stupid kids, and adults also treated him terribly. One day, he got expelled from school, and his father thought his son needs some time to think about himself, so asked him to go solo-trip. While he was in Osaka during the trip, he went into this book store and found a book. The book was autobiography by Naomi Uemura, and that book changed his life completely.

He read Uemura’s book gluttonously. He mirrored himself in Uemura’s life, who started as social failure but become the greatest adventurer ever born in Japan. He wondered if he could be like Uemura. Uemura’s life inspired him so much, and lead him to mountains. He started very amateurishly, but ended up climbing the seven summits.

It is interesting to see how I can see him “growing up” during his Seven Summits adventure. He was first doing his seven summits challenge in order to show others that he is worth something, just to get even with his schoolmates and teachers. When he was finishing up his Seven Summits in Everest, however, he wasn’t that frustrated kid any more, but he was mountain man. He had established his own philosophy about mountain, and probably more importantly, about people surrounding mountain, which lead him to second adventure as environmentalist (clean up Everest and Mt. Fuji).

He continues to inspire more Japanese. I think what we all could learn from him is his quickness toward action, and his unshakeable philosophy…

I am now curious to know his second act as environmentalist.