Record-setting alpinist feared killed on Russia road

Kyodo

Renowned climber Haruhisa Watanabe is believed to have died Wednesday morning when his bicycle was run over by a car in northwest Russia, his relatives and Foreign Ministry officials said Thursday.

The ministry informed his father, Hiroyasu, that the victim was “almost certainly” Watanabe, who in 2004 became the youngest Japanese climber to scale the tallest peaks on seven continents at age 22.

The Japanese Embassy confirmed that the passport and an identification card from Kyushu Sangyo University in Fukuoka Prefecture found with the body belonged to Watanabe, 31, who was traveling in the Murmansk region.

The embassy is considering sending staffers to the hospital where the body was taken after the accident. It will then be transported back to Japan.

Watanabe’s 57-year-old father confirmed he received a phone call from the ministry Thursday morning but said, “I do not want to believe it until I see his face.”

The Tass news agency reported that the car was being driven by a 56-year-old man at the time of the accident.

It is thought that driving conditions were hazardous because of poor visibility since the sun barely comes up for most of the day in the area Watanabe was cycling in, carrying such items as a tent and sleeping bag, local media reported.

Watanabe claimed the seven-continent climbing record in June 2004 after traveling to Alaska and scaling Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America.