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United Methodist oldest American to climb Mt. Everest

Posted: June 1 2021 at 12:08 PM

Art Muir and his Sherpa guide standing on top of the world becoming the oldest American to summit Mt. Everest at age 75. Photo courtesy Art Muir

On May 23 at 7:50 a.m., Arthur (Art) Muir, 75, climbed the final ascent of Mt. Everest, becoming the oldest American to reach the world’s highest peak at 29,031 feet, according to Himalayan Guides. He was joined by the second former NFL player to reach the summit, Mark Pattison, and more than a dozen other climbers.

Muir, a longtime United Methodist, member of North Shore UMC in Glencoe, and former board member of the UM Foundation of the Northern Illinois Conference, who helped chair the grants committee, began his journey to the peak many years ago, according to his son Charles Muir.

“Seven and a half years ago, I received a call in the middle of the night from an obviously foreign number and to this day I'm not even sure why I answered it,” Charles wrote on Facebook. “Turns out it was my dad calling me from the summit of Cotopaxi, a 19,000-foot tall volcano in Ecuador.”

Charles said that climb relit a fire in his dad, a retired Chicago attorney, that had been dormant for some time. “Fire is not the correct word. An inferno would be more accurate,” said Charles. “It led to us summiting Denali together, a dream of ours. That dream led to another dream for him: Summit Mount Everest.” Unfortunately, an ankle injury from falling off a ladder on the mountain cut short Art Muir’s attempt at Mt. Everest in 2019.

Muir would have to wait until 2021 to make his second attempt since Mt. Everest was closed to climbers last year because of the pandemic.

“I thought that he would never realize his dream. But never discredit my dad's drive and determination,” said Charles. “For two years, he trained, exercised, walked, climbed stairs over and over and over again – not even the COVID-19 pandemic would stop him as he built his own gym in the garage.”


An ankle injury forced Art to cut short his first attempt on Everest in 2019. Photo courtesy Charles Muir

Charles said all of that hard work came together on May 23 when his dad became the oldest American ever to summit the mountain (an accolade Art doesn’t much care about). Muir beat the record set by Bill Burke, who became the oldest American to climb the mountain at age 67 in 2009.

Muir admits he felt scared and anxious at times.  “You realize how big a mountain it is, how dangerous it is, how many things that could go wrong. Yeah, it makes you nervous, it makes some anxiety there,” Muir told reporters in Kathmandu. “It was cold and windy on the top and I was just surprised when I actually got there (the summit). I was too tired to stand up, and in my summit pictures I am sitting down."

Muir, a grandfather of six, safely made it down the mountain on May 30 and is looking forward to celebrating with his family back home.

"When I got back down to the (base) camp, I was just overwhelmed with emotion," Muir said during an interview on the TODAY show. "To be quite honest I thought about my family, I thought about my grandchildren, one of whom was born while I was on this expedition, and I started crying. It was an adventure of a lifetime."


Charles and his dad climbed Denali together in 2015. Photo courtesy Charles Muir

“Words cannot describe how proud of him I am. Very few know how hard he had to work, how dedicated and passionate he had to be to accomplish this,” said Charles. “When we summited Denali together, I jokingly asked him if he was going to try and climb Everest. He smiled at me and said, "I don't know. We'll see."

Charles said it might be time to stop putting ideas into his head before he decides to conquer another amazing feat. But there may be no stopping him!

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