Preparation Key for Safe Mountain Climbing

By Fukushi, Yukako | The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan), August 8, 2016 | Go to article overview

Preparation Key for Safe Mountain Climbing


Fukushi, Yukako, The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)


The summer mountain climbing season is in full swing. Although it tends to be seen as safer than winter mountaineering, the number of people involved in accidents in the summer has been increasing, especially in the past few years.

It's important to enjoy nature in the summer after preparing sufficient clothing and supplies in your backpack, as well as determining which mountain to climb based on your stamina and experience.

According to the National Police Agency, there were 647 mountain rescues in July and August 2015, the highest number since data was first collected in 1968. Compared to the summer of 2011, the number of rescues has increased by about 30 percent.

One reason is an increase in the number of climbers. In addition to the boom in mountaineering among middle-aged and senior climbers in the past decade, mountaineering has become an accessible leisure activity even for young people, including "yama girls," literally meaning "mountain girls" and referring to young women climbers.

"Getting stranded and suffering from injuries due to falls is common among middle-aged and senior climbers," said Shizuoka University Prof. Shin Murakoshi, who specializes in cognitive psychology and is familiar with mountaineering and hiking crisis management.

"In contrast, there are few cases of falling among climbers in their 20s to 40s, who have been increasing in number in the past several years," Murakoshi added. "However, many of them get lost because they don't carry a map or compass, or don't know the proper way to use them."

Along with insufficient preparation, another major cause of mountaineering accidents is overestimating one's ability. For example, some people carelessly try to take on 2,500-meter-high mountains, despite having insufficient experience in mountaineering, because they think it will be easy in summer.

"There are a lot of rocks on high mountains, making it difficult to walk, and such conditions can easily lead to serious injuries, like bone fractures, when falling," Murakoshi said.

"Mountain grading," which classifies mountains in terms of two standards -- 10 levels of physical requirement and five levels of technical difficulty -- helps people determine which mountains suit them. …

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