Japan's Northern Alps Photo: WIKIPWEDIA
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Hikers advised to get insurance against mountaineering accidents

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smithinjapan: "no one would need it for Mt. Fuji"

Wow, have you got an actual practical experience?! My head was perpetually banged on with stones blown by the wind. I could not open the eyes because of the volcanic ash boosted bay hail later on. On top you had to run when the wind quieted down and try to grab something or hide in a ditch. At times the distance was too long and I saw people lifted up by the gusts. I lost some items to the wind. Yes, the weather varies, but I believe such conditions are not uncommon. All the directions were in Japanese only. That is not a problem if you go up, but not on the way down. I actually ended up on the wrong side. You may say I should have worn goggles and helmet, gloves, and warm padded clothes, but I behaved like a typical person going on a May (I think) hike - I did actually have a coat, unlike some people there, and a spare sweater. There were plenty of elements there that could escalate into a disaster.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Clippety

This bloke's Japanese, though, which probably multiplied his embarrassment.

Must be a difficult call for a minshuku/ryokan owner. How late do you leave it before raising the alarm, if the prospective guest hasn't given you a set-in-stone arrival time?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@lucabrasi That sounds like an interesting story! I recall an incident in winter in Hakuba a few years back, when I believe some foreign boarders got caught in an avalanche but mountain rescue wouldn't come out until their family could provide payment. Something like that anyway.

To expand on my earlier comment, I think if you have hundreds of older climbers on the mountain who are insured, you might find that they are more willing to call out the rescue services for minor injuries. They may also feel that they can take more risks on the mountain. The result would be significantly more call outs, of that I have little doubt.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A friend of mine came back from the Northern Alps years ago, very indignant after being "rescued", quite unnecessarily, with his face plastered all over the TV news, just because the minshuku he was due to stay at that night decided it was getting late and called the police.

He didn't have to pay anything (this was about 1995), but I wonder what would happen now that money is becoming an issue.

Might we see rival groups of rescuers racing reach hikers and claim an insurance pay-out?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It makes sense, though perhaps Hiking insurance is too narrow focused in order to achieve real uptake. If it were simply extended to activity insurance, covering a wide range of activities from daily Cycling or skateboarding through to Snorkelling, or Hill/Mountain walking, then that would clearly be a worthwhile policy to have - assuming that it wasn't expensive. But simply for mountain trekking... unless you walk in the mountains often, it's not something that you're going to think about before doing so.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

hooktrunk2, thanks for the link.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Weiwei's comment about people taking on inappropriate weather and conditions is true, and can be for guided trips, not just for individuals. Some schoolkids were killed in an avalanche earlier this year on a mountain experience trip when the course leaders sent them for wading through snow practice up a steep slope after a storm. An avalanche warning had been issued for the area, but the course leaders ignored it.

With gaman, ganbaru, and "ame ni makezu" as parts of Japanese culture, perhaps stronger warnings should be given about taking on the weather. I can't believe anyone hikes in rain because it is fun.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

WeiWei hit the nail on the head here. People plan hikes (i.e., set dates) long in advance of the hike. And they will proceed with the hike even if the weather looks to be unusually wet or cold. Combine with that the fact that most people who hike are fair-weather, relatively inexperiences hikers, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Furthermore, as with many things, Japan's nanny state has kind of lulled people into a sense that everywhere is safe. Mountains aren't safe. Staying overnight away far from civilization is never safe if you aren't prepared. These high numbers of incidents don't surprise me at all.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

duncapa: "How are they going to be helped by an insurance site in Japanese only?"

First, it's only 'suggested' they get it, it's not mandatory that I can see. Second, no one would need it for Mt. Fuji.

I'd say this is a good idea for one reason; it MIGHT deter some old-timers and others from thinking they are somehow invulnerable and also professionals, and maybe they'll be less accidents on the whole. But why I don't like it is that it sounds like just another money grab:

"In the case of full-fledged mountaineering, premiums charged for a one-year contract would be 6,900 yen, which covers up to one million yen for rescue costs and up to 100 million yen in indemnity liability."

So, it covers 1 hour and 40 minutes of a helicopter search. And only slightly longer for one volunteer, but the company can rake in millions a year.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

2 out of 5 people walking up Mt. Fuji I encountered were foreigners. How are they going to be helped by an insurance site in Japanese only? Other mountains are presumably less frequented by foreigners but still why the bias in the area of peril? Ah, I know, presumably the rescue service can only help if called in Japanese, so all is consistent...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The next what are we going to pay? An insurrance for police to come to help us when we get aggressed? Or an insurrance for firemen that come estinguish a fire at our place?

I think it is plainly absurd... The rescue service is a service that exists because provided by the region/country or by volunteers. Just lik eother basic services. Clearly money have to come out from somewhere, but hopefully it is shouldn't happen so often that people get stranded or hurt on the mountains. Just like for fires, crimes and so on. The insurrance will simply credit more unexperienced people to venture irresponsibly even where they shouldn't. I think there should be more awarness (and official awarness campains) against unexperienced/unfit and elderly people to go out in the wilderness risking their lives and ccompromising that of others. When I go to Takao I often happen to see numbers of fainted elderly or untrained people in trouble on the way. And I always wonder how they decide to go for it. There is an age and a body for everything. And there should be a self-consicence, in my opinion.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Part of the problem are the solo hikers.

Buddy system simple as that.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Every weekend I see thousands swarming all over the mountains (including myself) and for those who prepare correctly I suspect the amount of accidents is very low. The ones I hear about seem to be mostly older people who take unnecessary risks.

I agree with this one. But one basic problem the Japanese have, is that their plans are never flexible. They decide 6 months before where they will go not taking into account the weather. Why do the Daikiretto in heavy rain or in thunderstorm? There is simply no need! Take another route and come back another week or next year. The mountain will still be there. You don't get bonus points for enduring bad weather.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This sounds good to me. It sounds like this is only for private search and rescue.

If anything, I think it would be good for people to be further responsible for a low fraction of the cost incurred by the police and other public bodies. Not enough for people to be discouraged from calling them, but enough to show appreciation for their efforts. Police helicopters cost just as much as private ones to operate, and the government is already running huge deficits.

The Nagano Police SAR heli crashed during a practice drill this year, killing all eight occupants. It's a dangerous job, and people should not take them for granted.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

"Deploying a helicopter can cost up to 10,000 yen per minute and daily payments to a rescuer working on a volunteer basis could come to several tens of thousands yen."

I don't get it, if they are volunteers why do you have to pay them?

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I'll walk home, thanks

I'd like to see you try if you have a broken leg.

For those older hikers who hike frequently and aren't penniless, this might be a good idea.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

i pay tax, so is free?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

The article sounds like an advertisement for the insurance companies. 2,500 incidents sound a lot but over 300,000 people climb Mount Fuji alone.

Every weekend I see thousands swarming all over the mountains (including myself) and for those who prepare correctly I suspect the amount of accidents is very low. The ones I hear about seem to be mostly older people who take unnecessary risks.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Moderator, it's Mont-Bell not Mount-Bell: https://hoken.montbell.jp

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Thank you. It has been corrected.

Do any of these insurances include backcountry skiing?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'd be tempted to call in the chopper if I was insured and was having a bad day on the Dai-Kiretto.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Good idea, but also please employ more technology. For new hikers some kind of satellite phone or just a beacon should be mandatory, that they can rent or buy.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I'll walk home, thanks

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

A good idea, and the cost sounds reasonable to me

6 ( +6 / -0 )

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