Record-high number of alpine accidents on Mount Fuji in July

Kyodo, JIJI

Accidents soared to a new record on Mount Fuji in the first month of the climbing season, leaving one person dead and four seriously injured just over a month after the peak was put on the World Heritage List, according to a police tally.

The number of accidents in July spiked by 29 from a year earlier to 43 — the most since the police began compiling accident data in 1973, the Shizuoka Prefectural Police said Thursday.

In all of 2012, seven people died and 70 were injured, four seriously, according to the police. The climbing season began July 1 with the official opening of the four hiking trails to the summit.

The mountain has been drawing more climbers than usual due to an early thaw that accelerated the opening of the climbing routes this year, the early end of the rainy season in central and eastern Japan and the World Heritage listing, the police and Environment Ministry officials said.

This year, the number of climbers from July 1 to July 21 grew 35 percent to 79,057, according to the ministry, which began counting climbers in 2005 via infrared sensors near the eighth stations of the four routes.

The climbing route starting in Yoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture, proved most popular during the three weeks and was taken by 47,453 climbers, up 25.9 percent from a year earlier.

But routes from the Shizuoka Prefecture side of the volcano were also crowded. Climbers nearly doubled to 9,990 on the Subashiri route and surged 67.6 percent to 4,590 on the Gotenba route, the ministry said.

Surveys by local municipalities near the routes’ fifth and sixth stations showed that 101,373 people ascended or hiked on the 3,776-meter volcano in the same three-week period.