Bodies of Japanese climbers identified after 45 years

A boot found at the Matterhorn Glacier in 2014 which belonged to one of the two Japanese climbers who died reportedly attempting to climb the mountain Police canton VS

Forty-five years after two Japanese climbers died reportedly attempting the difficult north face of the Matterhorn, their remains have been found at the foot of the glacier and formally identified thanks to DNA samples, the Valais police have said.

This content was published on August 6, 2015 - 16:10 with agencies

The police confirmed on Thursday that the remains of two Japanese climbers who disappeared on August 18, 1970 were found in September 2014 at the foot of the Matterhorn Glacier at an altitude of 2,800 metres, just above the resort of Zermatt in canton Valais. Searches for the two climbers at the time were fruitless.

The police said the remains were sent to the forensic science unit at the Central Institute of Valais Hospitals (ICHV) in Sion, canton Valais. Together with other specialists they were able to determine the victims’ DNA.

Research by the cantonal police together with the Japanese consulate in Geneva led to the victims’ parents in Japan. The identities of the DNA samples of the two climbers were formally confirmed on June 11, 2015 and on July 20, 2015.

According to the regional newspaper La Nouvelliste, which found information in their archives on the disappearances, the two climbers were Miskio Oikawa (21) and Masayuki Kobayashi (23), both members of the French Alpine Club. Witnesses at the time said the two had left the Hörnli hut (the mountain hut starting point for climbers) on August 18 at the start of the afternoon determined to climb the north face of the Matterhorn. They were reportedly last seen at 4,200 metres before a storm enveloped the mountain for several days.

The cantonal police have a list of 270 people who have disappeared since 1920. Most were involved in mountain accidents as well as several drownings.

“Today these disappearances are rare,” Jean-Marie Bornet, head of communication at Valais police, told La Nouvelliste.

As glaciers melt and slowly retreat, such macabre discoveries become increasingly frequent. In February 2014 the bones and clothing bearing the name of Jonathan Conville, a 27-year-old British climber who vanished from the Matterhorn in 1979, were discovered by searchers.

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