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Regarding the July 20 article “Agent sorry for mountain deaths“: The only proper way this tour company could acknowledge its gross failure in the eight deaths of senior citizen hikers who entrusted their lives to it would be to shut down its mountain activities for good. “Wet-cold” is one of the first conditions a mountain guide should know about. And a company’s responsibility should include employing guides who have hiked this nontrivial mountain before leading a group.

I did the same trip last summer. Despite quite nice summer conditions, a cold cloud capped the peak of Tomuraushi (Hokkaido) most of the time, forcing me to camp below the summit. Ice was on my tent the next morning!

Experienced people know what to expect. Not only did these inexperienced guides leave a safe mountain hut in bad weather; they chose to take the group over the top of the mountain when, alternatively, there was a lower and less exposed track west and around the mountain. Or even better, they could have returned to the hut.

It is hard not to think that the guides acted under company pressure to scale the peak, one of Japan’s hundred sacred peaks, and keep the schedule on track to save the company the expense of changing flights back to Honshu. It so happened that I was hiking the area the very day after this tragedy (unaware of it), simply because the weather forecast showed that the day would be the only good one for a while. Surely the company and the guides had the same information.

It is so sad that these eight hikers could not share the wonderful day I had and continue an active life with their families. Shame on the company for performing so badly professionally, then appearing to dodge its catastrophic failure with poorly hidden suggestions that its customers were not prepared well enough.

hans christian larsen

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