On August 18, 1970, two Japanese mountaineers were caught in a snowstorm while ascending the north face of Switzerland’s most iconic peak. They were never heard from again… That is until just recently.
This past September, a mountaineer stumbled upon the bones of the two former Japanese citizens at the bottom of the Matterhorn glacier. Family members of the two suspected climbers provided a DNA sample which was tested against the remains. The results confirm that the climbers are Masayuki Kobayashi from Tokyo and Michio Oikawa from Chiba. Kobayashi was 21 and Oikawa was 22 at the time of their disappearance.
In an interview with Reuters, Valais canton police spokesman Stephane Vouardoux said, “They had spent the night before in a hut because they wanted to ascend the north face of the Matterhorn.”
“They were probably surprised by a snow storm when they disappeared. The snow storm lasted a few days which prevented the rescue teams from searching.”
Since the advent of glacial recession, the remains of missing climbers have started showing up and the two Japanese mountaineers follow an October discovery of a Czech mountaineer who disappeared in 1974.
The Matterhorn’s Death Toll
- Over 500 people have died on the mountain since its first ascent in 1865.
- Shortly after the first ascent of the Matterhorn, 4 of the 7 pioneers died during the descent. However, while three of their bodies were recovered days later, Lord Francis Douglas remains missing to this day.
- On average, 12 people die a year on the mountain.
- Many of the mountain’s victims (including the three who died during the first ascent) are buried in the downtown cemetery of Zermatt.
“No, the Matterhorn can resemble no other peak – it is the model; similarly, no other peak really resembles the Matterhorn; the mould has been broken, there are not even any copies. The Matterhorn is unique!”– Gaston Rébuffat