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As the summer climbing season swings into full gear, and with the growing popularity of climbing amid the COVID-19 crisis, more people are getting stranded in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture.

Climbing is gaining traction as a leisure activity that can be enjoyed without entering a close-contact setting that increases the risk of coronavirus infection.

The number of climbers who were stranded in mountains in the prefecture in July came to 48, up from seven a year before and up from 36 in July 2019, before the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the mountain safety division of the Nagano Prefectural Police Department.

Lone climbers accounted for 19, or about 40% of the total. The proportion was far higher than the average of 27.7% over the past five years. Of the total reported in July, seven died, and six of them had climbed solo.

Of the 48 people, 14 were in their 50s, seven were in their 30s or younger and among climbers in their 40s, 60s and 70s nine in each age group were stranded. During the four-day weekend in late July, 29 climbers got lost and four of them died.

The rise in the number of people getting lost in mountains may reflect an increase in numbers of climbers that have little or no experience as the outdoor activity becomes more popular, an official of the mountain safety division said.

The official also pointed to a rise in the number of older people going climbing after getting COVID-19 vaccines, as well as a lack of exercise amid the trend to stay home due to the pandemic.

The division has been urging people with little climbing experience to venture out with experienced climbers, such as mountain guides, consider their own physical strength, expertise and experience when choosing a mountain and draw up a climbing plan that has some flexibility, taking account of time and weather.

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