national

Mountain hikers warned to protect themselves amid spate of strandings

30 Comments

The requested article has expired, and is no longer available. Any related articles, and user comments are shown below.

© KYODO

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

30 Comments
Login to comment

Glad to see that they’re doing this. And as someone who is a nature lover myself, I can also say that you do need to take the proper precautions as well. Around the world, more and more people are going out to nature, which is something I of course support. But you can obviously get in serious trouble if you’re not careful. If you are careful, it sure as heck is a great way to get away from all the heat waves that are going on in Japan.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Common sense is often times an uncommon thing among some of these weekend climbers. Far too many seem to think that just because there is a path or road up the mountain that it's just as easy as taking a walk in the water on the beach!

But even beaches have sharks sometimes!

1 ( +6 / -5 )

@Yubaru - I don't think beaches having sharks is a comparison. Perhaps people who cannot swim going to the beach would be better.

This problem comes from a lack of education. People go and spend a thousand dollars on 'fashionable' hiking gear and just start wandering up mountains. The Japan Mountain Guides association needs to petition their stingy government to get some cash so they can produce a quality publication telling people how to survive in alpine regions. I've seen a few brochures, but they are next an extensive education of the dangers. I'd even go as far as to suggest some kind of licencing or certification to allow people to traverse mountains. Nearly 800 people getting stranded in one climbing season (6 months) seems a heck of a lot.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

These days checking the weather is so easy to do in order to get an idea of what might be coming(even though weather forecasts are still very inaccurate). The Weathernews app is pretty comprehensive and has two rain radar models that are sometimes completely different, but good enough). Also carry meds like ibuprofen and bandages(doesn't take much room). I got received a thigh injury after both heels slipped in a clay area of a trail when I was still 5km out from the trailhead--calmed my muscles enough to be able to reach my car. I will never go hiking the day after a typhoon again. Way too wet still.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Requiring climbers to wear some kind of signalling device might also be helpful. Easy enough to do now a days.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

When I lived in Colorado, I did some mountain hiking. I always brought more food and water than I thought I might need. During my first ascent of Pike's Peak, I had to pace myself and take frequent breaks due to the altitude. It always surprised me that many (what I understood to be) professional runners would trot past me on their way to the top with only one or two 500ml bottles of water and nothing else but the meager clothes on their backs.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Plus, I always wore a fluorescent orange vest so I would be easy to spot, and carried a whistle to signal for help.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Japan's trails are not graded. I did a big day hike a couple of weeks ago, about 1700m of vert. I had read a lot about it, but was a bit surprised at how rocky and steep one section of the trail was. My garmin said it was 22-23 degrees for 400 meters of vertical, which is hard to go up but really leg-trashing to come back down. It means braking on every step. I looked it up and a section that steep would be graded "very difficult" in Switzerland. I didn't get one this time, but there are also sections, often near summits, where there are chains and you have to use your arms. They would be graded as "scrambles" in other countries. In Japan, most hiking maps just say "here to here - two hours", usually very conservatively. If you are fit, it's tempting to think you'll always do it in half the time.

The other development that might be causing some of this is trail running. It encourages people to go faster and further in the mountains with minimal gear and less protective footwear. Most trail running events in Japan are in woods with mud and roots, something ordinary running shoes can handle. Mountain trails are covered in rocks, a much less forgiving surface.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Plus, I always wore a fluorescent orange vest so I would be easy to spot, and carried a whistle to signal for help.

Good advice.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Those idiots cost us a lot of money. I think the rescue services are prefectural and most of those fools that get lost are from other prefectures, costing prefectures with popular trails money they never even paid in in taxes. What is needed is a new rule where you either get some rescue insurance and register your trek, or you get to find your own way back...or not. Its not just the money, but its not safe for the rescue workers either. A couple years ago a whole helicopter full of rescue people were killed in a crash in the mountains just on a practice drill.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

There is some good advice in the comments above.

I've done a bit of hiking on Japan including Fuji-san a number of years ago. Overall I have to say that two key issues stand out.

1) Trails are not as well marked and graded as they should be but there may be several reasons for this. Many appear to be local tracks that have become more and more popular over the years and have been overlooked for formal maintenance, signage etc. Maintenance of tracks seems to be haphazard and down to local councils and Prefectures who often have other things to spend their dwindling cash reserves on. There doesn't appear to be a nationwide organisation in charge of standardizing tracks, designs, signage and advertising etc which is something that occurs in many other countries.

2) Inexperience is a killer. Just because someone has bought the latest gear and clothing, it does not make them an experienced hiker/camper but just gives them an illusion of such. I've seen women in pumps at the summit of Fuji san and on other trails, and men in loafers and woolen business vests. Hikers need to know their limitations, pack appropriately for the task ahead, and not be afraid to turn around/stop when the objective cant be reached safely. Unfortunately, that often comes with experience.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I wouldn't go as far as Norman but yes, there have been a number of accidents with rescue helis and people should not take them for granted.

Maybe closer to Kanto is different, but there are few/no new local trails being discovered in Nagano. If there is a development, it is old trails falling into disuse and becoming impassable. They may be mentioned in out of print guidebooks, and will be marked on the 1:25,000 map (google "wachizu"), but won't be in modern guidebooks read by novices. Most people getting into trouble in summer are doing so on established trails for the reasons mentioned in the story.

Grading won't make routes easier but forewarned is, err, whatever that expression was.

You can see an animation of expected rainfall here. The Met agency people extended this to the coming 15 hours last year. In my experience, it is pretty accurate.

https://www.jma.go.jp/en/kaikotan/

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Those idiots cost us a lot of money. 

Actually those "idiots" who need to call in for rescue services are billed for the hours put in to come and get them. This only occurs with regards to rescues in the mountains.

If you are at sea and have an emergency the coast guard will come and assist for free, so water rescues cost "us" a lot of money, not the one's in the mountains!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

During my first ascent of Pike's Peak, I had to pace myself and take frequent breaks due to the altitude. It always surprised me that many (what I understood to be) professional runners would trot past me on their way to the top with only one or two 500ml bottles of water and nothing else but the meager clothes on their backs.

Those people are crazy, sensei.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Yubaru You seem to have confused bills issued with funds received. Also I don't think they are billed the full cost, and even if they were, there is no way many could ever pay it. And just as I think its all handled by prefectures I am sure they all have their own policies too. Until I see financial reports showing otherwise, I am going to assume taxpayers pay for most of this, cause that reflects what I have heard from various sources.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I was involved in mountain rescue when I was a younger man in the UK. Even the most experienced can get into trouble.

When we were living in Nagano climbed the alps quite a few times. But we did training for one or two months first and always went with an alpine guide friend who knew the routes.

Even so on one occasion I got altitude sickness, very strange and had to stop for a few hours while I recovered.

Insurance is available to cover injury and rescue.

https://ridgelineimages.com/musings/hiking-in-japan-why-insurance-matters/

7 ( +7 / -0 )

because someone has bought the latest gear and clothing, it does not make them an experienced hiker/camper but just gives them an illusion of such. I've seen women in pumps at the summit of Fuji san and on other trails, and men in loafers and woolen business vests.

Yeah allot of its just common sense. a liter or 2 of water, extra socks, water proof gear, peanut butter or other high carb/kcal munchies, nice boots, mole skin for blisters, power pack ( I made my own) large brim hat, sun screen, towel, lights etc, compass ( know how to use it)

not as dangerous as California; a cougar can get up on you and your mauled before you know it. Probably need a fire arm there.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Summer, mountains, careful with suzumebachis..

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Besides what the article says some Japanese won't cancel their plans hot, cold, rain.

Cancel is much trouble.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Admittedly speaking from a position of ignorance since I haven't been hiking for a while, but it seems to me that requiring (or at least strongly recommending) that hikers bring a small emergency distress beacon that can be rented easily and inexpensively would be a wise decision and lucrative for whichever companies were involved. Considering the expense of search and rescue operations, it might even be worth subsidizing.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

In Himalaya region esp in Nepal, older people hike and trek every day like your normal walk out in the town and all you guys saying...this and that...they will smile at you with their shiny teeth.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

You seem to have confused bills issued with funds received. Also I don't think they are billed the full cost, and even if they were, there is no way many could ever pay it.

You seem to be confused with reality. Read the following link!

https://ridgelineimages.com/musings/hiking-in-japan-why-insurance-matters/

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I climbed Happone in Hakuba during Obon. It was really busy.

I was surprised by the amount of older people who would struggle walking to the shops up there. Maybe because they could get a gondola most of the way.

Also it was very cloudy at the top with chances of lightning. I turned back just in case after 2 hours but most people have to get to the peak.

Think I was the only one not wearing all the hiking gear from Alpen etc.

Felt like a weirdo in a normal t shirt

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I'll take the ropeway, thank you.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Besides what the article says some Japanese won't cancel their plans hot, cold, rain.

I think that's the biggest factor. Plans in the mountains should be weather dependent and have a plan B. They should not be about ticking a mountain off a list. The sad thing is that Japan has an obvious plan B for people heading into the mountains, which is to jump in the onsen. You can't do that when its foggy in the Lake District.

As it happens, having an arbitrary list of "100 Famous Mountains" is possibly the perfect way to encourage people to look upon mountains as items on a list to be ticked off.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

First rule is to hike with a copacetic partner. Lots safer, lots more fun.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Nearly 800 people getting stranded in one climbing season (6 months) seems a heck of a lot.

It does, but by comparison, the Scottish Mountain Rescue Service had 683 callouts in 2017. Perhaps not exactly comparable numbers (not all callouts may be for "stranded" climbers), but given the relative size and population difference, perhaps the number is not so high.

Anyway, best to be prepared and take care.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@inspectorgadget - "Hikers need to know their limitations" Exactly. During my first attempt at a "Fourteener" in Colorado, I had to stop just past the 12,000 ft. level due to altitude sickness. I had severe nausea, and (oddly) I could feel my heart pounding strongly on the back of my head. I waited while my partner summited. I had recovered by the time he returned. I followed him back down until he began to lead us in the wrong direction. I told him "Hey, we're going the wrong way." Not wanting to get lost in the Rocky Mountains. I think the thin air had affected his judgment.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Mr. Goodman is correct: Billing does not equal payment.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Requiring climbers to wear some kind of signalling device might also be helpful. Easy enough to do now a days.

I don't understand the down-votes on the idea. Many experienced climbers--especially those who climb alone--carry very sophisticated, satellite-linked, tracking devices voluntarily.

Should they run into difficulty and not make their call-in appointment, search & rescue immediately knows where they are.

If they fall to their deaths (it happens even to highly experienced climbers) a recovery mission is saved the effort of an expensive, time-consuming and often highly dangerous search over a vast area.

Families of loved ones who are still "missing" on mountains are spared the anguish of not being able to bury or cremate their loved ones, as well as the additional expense of legal fees incurred in order to have the missing persons declared dead in order to settle estate matters
2 ( +2 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites