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Mt. Shirouma-dake (白馬岳)
Mountain Climbing Accidents

For a little background on some of the reasons why the Daisekkei Valley (大雪渓, big snow valley) can be so dangerous, please refer to the top of my Mt. Shirouma-dake (白馬岳) page.

April 29, 2013

4 climbers die on mountains in central Japan, 2 missing

NAGANO--A day after an avalanche hit a group of climbers on Mount Shirouma in Nagano Prefecture, the body of a missing woman was found Sunday, Nagano Police Department said. The body of Noriko Yamaguchi, 56, from Gifu Prefecture, was found near the site of the avalanche, they said.

Police found two backpacks nearby and believe others could be missing but had to give up the search for the day due to the risk of another avalanche.

Yamaguchi and three others in a group of six climbers were hit by the avalanche at around 10:35 a.m. Saturday. The three others were later rescued  after the group leader made an emergency call to the police around noon.

"We have continued searching for two male climbers who were feared to be involved in the same avalanche," said a police spokesman.

The police are checking if any other climbers are missing on the mountain, as they have yet to confirm the safety of eight people in two groups who were near the site of the avalanche.

Meanwhile, officers aboard a Nagano Prefectural Police helicopter found a man dead on 2,899-meter-high Mount Akadake, part of the Yatsugatake mountain range, which stands along the border of Nagano and Yamanashi Prefectures, on April 28.

The man, identified as Naoki Shimada, 57, is believed to have slipped down a slope. Shimada, a resident of Kokubunji, western Tokyo, began climbing Mount Akadake on April 26 alone, and stayed at a lodge that night. He went missing after leaving the lodge the following day.

Nagano Prefectural Police launched a search for him in response to a request from his family.

Prefectural police also received an emergency call at around 5:40 p.m. on April 28 saying that a man had slid down a slope on 2,812-meter-high Mount Shakushidake, located along the border of Nagano and Toyama prefectures.

A prefectural police helicopter rescued him, but he was confirmed dead at a hospital. Police believe the man is a resident of Kyoto Prefecture in his 50s. He had been climbing Mount Shakushidake with three other climbers.

At around 8:20 a.m. on April 28, a climber found a man lying in a 2,740-meter-high area of Mount Fuji in Yamanashi Prefecture. He was transported to a hospital aboard a prefectural government helicopter but was pronounced dead. He has been identified as Kenji Ishibashi, 53, a company employee from Adachi Ward, Tokyo. Police suspect that he had taken a fall shortly before he was found.

Following the start of this year's mountaineering season, police in central Japan are warning climbers against avalanches or other snow-related accidents in the region, where heavy snow still covers major mountains.

Sources: AFP, Kyodo, The Mainichi


May 6, 2012

6 missing climbers found dead near Mt. Shirouma

NAGANO--Six men who had gone missing during their climb of Mt. Shirouma in Nagano Prefecture were found dead on Saturday.

The Nagano prefectural police found the six, all from Kitakyushu, lying on the ground near the top of Mt. Korenge on the way to the 2,932-meter-high Mt. Shirouma in the Northern Japan Alps.

The police carried the climbers away by helicopter, and they were confirmed dead a short time later.

The six men were found huddled together wearing summer rain gear and did not have any winter mountaineering gear, according to the police.

A senior officer at the police department said it advises mountain climbers to use winter climbing gear at this time of the year, but that accidents continue to occur every year.

Their lives would have been saved if they had winter gear, the officer said.

The men, in their 60s to 70s, were found at the top of the mountain's ridge, a two-hour walk from Mt. Shirouma, the police said.

The men stayed at a lodge Thursday night in the Tsugaike highland in the village of Otari in the prefecture and left the lodge early Friday morning to climb Mt. Shirouma.

They were scheduled to stay at another lodge near the top of Mt. Shirouma Friday night, but were last heard from on Friday afternoon, not long before a snowstorm swept across the mountains, officials said.

Mountain climbing is a popular pastime among the middle-aged and elderly in Japan, and last week was Golden Week, when most of the country was on holiday and many climbers were rushing to the Northern Alps as the climbing season in the region just began.

The National Police Agency says the number of climbers who died or went missing reached 294 in 2010. Of the climbers who had accidents, 90 percent were 40 years old or over.

Sources: Jiji Press, The Daily Yomiuri, NewsCore, NHK


May 1, 2011

2 climbers die after being hit by avalanche on Mt. Shirouma

NAGANO--Two climbers were confirmed dead on Saturday after at least 11 people, including the two, were hit by an avalanche the previous day on Mt. Shirouma in Nagano Prefecture, police said.

A man with a backpack was found dead Saturday morning near the site of the avalanche and was later identified as Hidemitsu Sato, 69, from Nagano Prefecture, while Eiji Yokokawa, 63, from Yokohama, died after being taken to hospital with two other climbers, who sustained injuries, the police said.

The seven others hit by the avalanche returned from the mountain on their own, according to the police.

Sources: Kyodo, Mainichi Daily News 


Aug. 21, 2008

2 bodies found after landslide hits Northern Alps

NAGANO--The bodies of a man and a woman were found Wednesday on Mt. Shirouma in Hakubamura, Nagano Prefecture, where three people had been reported missing following a landslide that occurred the previous day, police said.

Police identified the two as Hiroshi Noma, a 35-year-old mountain guide from Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, and Kuniko Suzuki, in her 60s from Yamato, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Another man in his 60s, a professor at Nagaoka National College of Technology in Nagaoka, Niigata Prefecture, is still missing.

The police began searching for the missing persons early Wednesday, and discovered the bodies on the 2,932-meter mountain in the Northern Japanese Alps.

According to their mountaineering plan, Noma and Suzuki were scheduled to enter Mt. Shirouma on Monday.

They were to trek through the Daisekkei Valley Tuesday before staying the night at the Hakuba Sanso lodge near the summit.

They planned to leave the mountains Thursday after passing through Mt. Shakushidake on the border of Nagano and Toyama prefectures on Wednesday.

The professor was scheduled to stay with his students at Hakubajiri Goya lodge on the bottom of Daisekkei valley, but was reported missing Tuesday before meeting with students at the lodge.

According to the police, Tuesday's landslide occurred near the Nebukabira area, located 2,300 meters to 2,400 meters above sea level on the upper part of the valley. The fan-shaped landslide measured 100 meters long, up to 50 meters wide and 2 meters thick, the police said.

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun


Aug. 20, 2008

2 missing after landslide strikes Northern Alps

NAGANO--A climber and a guide are missing following a landslide on Mt. Shirouma in the Northern Japanese Alps on Tuesday, police said.

Nagano prefectural police were notified that a landslide had occurred on the mountain by a permanent mountain accident prevention unit at about 4:10 p.m.

The landslide reportedly took place near the Daisekkei valley on the Hakubamura side of the 2,932-meter peak.

The police said they were unable to make contact with two of the eight people scheduled to stay in a lodge close to the summit.

Members of the unit who searched for the missing climbers reportedly found the mountain guide's rucksack. The rucksack contained unopened boxed lunches.

The police believe the missing guide and climber might have been hit by the landslide and were working to confirm this.

According to the police and other sources, a two-meter thick chunk of earth measuring 30 meters by 70 meters collapsed close to the Nebukabira area in the upper region of the valley. Altitude in the area ranges from 2,300 to 2,400 meters.

The guide and missing climber had written on their climbing cards that they would take a route passing through the valley.

The six who the police had managed to contact abandoned their ascent.

According to a mountain accident prevention society in the north of the range, climbers that passed close to the scene at about 11 a.m. saw the vestige of the landslide. The landslide is believed to have occurred around this time.

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun

Daisekkei rockfall routes
Routes of recent Daisekkei rockfall incidents


Mon., Oct. 9, 2006

Seven climbers trapped on peak; two feared dead

NAGANO--Six women and one man were trapped in a snowstorm Sunday on Mount Shirouma near Hakuba, Nagano Prefecture, and two of the women were apparently dead, police said.

The Nagano Prefectural Police mountain rescue team was dispatched in the morning but was unable to reach the seven climbers due to heavy snow. It suspended rescue operations in the evening.

Three of the women were able to reach a lodge near the summit of the 2,932-meter mountain, but one of them, Kayoko Kobasa, 53, appeared to have died, the police said.

Kazue Watanabe, 61, trapped near the summit, was also believed to be dead because she stopped responding to workers from the lodge attempting to communicate with her, they said.

Two other women -- Toshie Koga, 66, and her sister, Sumiko, 61 -- took shelter on a climbing route, but their fate was unknown. The group's leader, Kazuhiro Tagami, sought help at another lodge. He was uninjured.

Sources: Kyodo, Japan Times


Sun., Aug. 27, 2006

Rockfall accident kills woman, injures another in Daisekkei Great Snow Valley in Hakuba

At 11:15 am on Sun., Aug. 27, a 63-year-old housewife from Nishi-Tokyo City was struck in the head by a falling one-meter-wide boulder and died instantly while hiking in the Daisekkei Great Snow Valley near Shirouma-dake (elev. 2,932 meters) in the Northern Japan Alps.  Accompanying her in the hiking party was a 58-year-old woman, also from Nishi-Tokyo, who was struck by the same huge rock, severely injuring her leg.

The women were part of a 22-member hiking tour sponsored & funded by Nishi-Tokyo City's Foundation for Culture and Sports in a one-day hiking event billed as "Seasonal Hiking."  It was reported that participants were recruited without any regard to their mountain hiking experience.  Also, hiking tour organizers claimed they were unaware of any previous accidents in the Daisekkei, an area plagued by frequent rock slides & fatalities.

The group started their day trip from their accommodations in Otari Village in Kita-Azumi County, and at the time of the accident were resting, having reached their destination at elevation 1900 meters. 

At that time, the weather was cloudy, with poor visibility of only about 30 meters.
Sources: Mainichi Shimbun, Jiji Press


Fri., Aug. 12, 2005

Landslide buries Nagano climbers -
One dead as heavy rain loosens 2,000 cu. meters of mud

NAGANO--A landslide Thursday buried at least three climbers on Mount Shirouma in Hakuba, Nagano Prefecture, killing one man and leaving a woman trapped in mud, police said.

Two of the men were rescued, but Ginnosuke Tanaka, 65, of Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Hiroshi Okubo, 57, from Akashina, Nagano Prefecture, sustained serious injuries, police said. Rescuers were still trying to save the woman.

"I heard a roaring sound similar to that of a jet plane, and I saw mud coming toward me," said Okubo. "I ran as fast as I could, but I was hit by a falling rock."

The Meteorological Agency had issued a landslide warning for the areas following heavy rain. About 2,000 cu. meters of mud was released in the landslide, according to police estimates.

More climbers may have been hit by the landslide, according to police. But search and rescue efforts were hampered by the thick fog that engulfed the site and continued smaller landslides.

Police suspended the day's search shortly after 3:30 p.m. and plan to resume the effort early Friday morning.

The first news of the landslide reached Sarukura-so, a mountain cottage near the entrance to the trekking route, at around 8:30 a.m. on Thursday. About 50 local rescue workers were soon dispatched to find those trapped under the mud.

About 200 to 300 climbers left the cottage in the morning, according to Tomoyuki Tanida, 34, manager of the cottage.

"The number of climbers is not big today. But I'm worried about the people who may be trapped in the mud as well as the recurrence of such an accident in the future," he said.

Tanaka had started climbing the mountain alone Monday. On Wednesday, he reportedly telephoned his family and said he would seek shelter amid the bad weather at a mountain cottage.

Okubo said he saw a man -- who turned out to be Tanaka -- collapsed about 100 meters from the site where he himself was hit by the rock.

"I thought that I would also die . . . I was so scared," Okubo said as he recalled the horror of the landslide.

The 2,932-meter mountain drew some 35,000 climbers last year, according to the village tourist bureau.

Sources: Kyodo, Japan Times

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