Marin Minamiya, the youngest Japanese person to summit Everest, takes on a new challenge
In May 2016, at just 19, Marin Minamiya became the youngest Japanese person to scale Mount Everest. She's also the youngest person in the world to ascend the highest peaks on all seven continents.
For her, the seemingly impossible is just a challenge awaiting defeat. And she's been plotting her victory for quite some time.
In 2011, when Minamiya was 13, she embarked on a trip to Nepal with her classmates under the supervision of her teachers from the Hong Kong-based South Island School. There, while trekking the Annapurna base camp, which its highest point boasts an elevation of 19,192 ft., is where she discovered her passion for climbing. And from that moment, she knew she'd go on to tackle one of the most challenging mountains known to man. "Seven summits, no, but Everest, yes," she noted, when discussing the start of her climbing career.
Since then, she's taken the sport by storm and celebrated two birthdays by reaching new summits. She took on Mount Aconcagua in Argentina for her 18th -- which at an 22,841-foot elevation is the highest mountain outside of Asia. Then, on the eve of her 19th birthday, she tackled the treacherous terrain of Mount Vinson in Antarctica at 6,050 feet, instead of the requisite dinner or nightclub jaunt.
Minamiya said one of her biggest achievements to date is the fact that she was able to combine her love for scaling the world's largest mountains with fashion and technology, as UNIQLO's latest global brand ambassador. She was clad in the mega-retailer's down suit when she reached the summit of Everest.
But her new role actually wasn't the impetus behind her wearing the fashion house's pieces. "Before becoming the Japan-based brand ambassador, I had always been wearing UNIQLO to climb mountains," Minamiya said.
In addition to her climbing commitments, Minamiya is currently studying political science and economics at Waseda University in Tokyo. With much planning, she is able to juggle both her training regimen, UNIQLO duties and academic demands.
"It's definitely not easy, but I managed to take classes only on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, so I can work on Wednesday, Thursday and sometimes Sunday," she said.
And her schedule is not for the faint of heart. "I have 20 classes a week and online courses, too. It's really crazy. I have training after I get home and finish homework."
Minamiya's accomplishments haven't come without hardships and tragedy. While becoming the youngest female in the world to summit Mount Manaslu in Nepal at 26,759 feet, one of the members on her climbing team died from severe fatigue and high-altitude sickness.
"The experience was overwhelming for me," she revealed in an interview with China's Young Post earlier this year. "It would be impossible to describe in words what it was like on that mountain."
She also has met several mountaineers who are missing limbs or fingers from climbing accidents and suffered a brutal fall on a Japanese mountain herself. Luckily, her survival skills kicked in and she bivouacked (created a temporary shelter) in the snow, where she slept until a helicopter found her the next day. Two climbers had died there just a month before her incident, and she became keenly aware of her own mortality. To heal from the trauma, she went through a four-month psychological recovery program. Then she started climbing again.
In 2017, Minamiya hopes to get one step closer to completing the Explorers Grand Slam, an adventurer's challenge that includes reaching the North and South Poles as well as the Seven Summits. She plans to get to the North Pole in April, and it's hard to imagine Minamiya going anywhere but up from there.
"I realized that I had turned my failures to strength and that I was able to make all sorts of episodes (good or bad) fuel my passion," she said. "They encourage me to work harder, challenge my limits, and be a better person every day."
Faith Cummings writes for Paper Magazine and InStyle.com, among other publications. Check her out on Twitter @fcummings to see more of her work.