Two Japanese men, Masayuki Kobayash and Michio Oikawa, were young, 21 and 23 respectively, when they went looking for adventure in the Swiss Alps in 1970. But the two got caught in a storm and what they found instead of adventure was death. Now, 45 years later, their remains have finally found and identified.
Many have died on the Matterhorn and in recent years the melting glaciers have been revealing the dead. In the case of Kobayash and Oikawa, last September a climber found skeletal remains and climbing equipment on a shrinking glacier at 2800 feet. They were discovered on a well-known peak that is above the Swiss town of Zermatt.
It took time but officials in Switzerland, believing the remains were of Kobaash and Oikawa, contacted officials in Japan, who tracked down family members. DNA tests were conducted and the results confirmed the two missing adventurers had been found at last.
“They’d spent the night before in a hut because they wanted to ascend the north face of the Matterhorn,” Swiss police spokesman Stephane Vouardoux told Reuters. “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.”
Swiss police made the announcment about the DNA results on Thursday but did not say what will be done with the remains of the men now. An official in Japan was contacted by Reuters but only said that they were “making the necessary arrangements according to the wishes of the families.”
Climbers continue to scale the Matterhorn and it continues to be a dangerous ascent. Since the first climber went up some 150 years ago, 500 climbers have died on the mountain. There remains more than two dozen of them still up there, somewhere.
Most famously the remains of the English gentleman, Lord Francis Douglas, are still up there, and have been for 150 years. In 1865, Douglas and six others made up the first successful expedition to the top of the Matterhorn but on the way down he and three others fell to their deaths; only the body of Douglas was never found.