Closing popular hiking trails has led to an unexpected extra benefit.

The pandemic has led to a lot of closures, not least among them the the hiking trails of Mt. Fuji. Where ordinarily hordes of people would be lining up–literally, on some days–to climb Japan’s tallest mountain in the summer, this year, for public health reasons, the trails were closed, leaving the mountain empty for the entire climbing season.

Officials from Yamanashi prefecture, where the most popular trails for hiking Mt. Fuji lie, have also requested that hikers refrain from climbing other popular mountains, like those in the Southern Alps. While this has been part of an effort to help reduce the spread of coronavirus, the closures have had an additional unintended benefit: reducing the number of hiking and climbing accidents.

▼ The sprawling Southern Alps of central Japan

Yamanashi prefecture experiences more mountain-related accidents than any other prefecture in Japan, but while nearly 60 people were lost, killed, or injured while hiking in Yamanashi prefecture last summer, this year saw just 5 incidents. That’s about 10 percent of the number usually recorded in ordinary seasons.

Furthermore, only one of those incidents resulted in death; a man in his 20s was killed in an avalanche that occurred while he was hiking in the woods near Sessokyo Onsen in Kawanehon Town. The remaining four cases were people lost in the woods, but they were all safely found.

Notably, exactly zero of those accidents happened on Mt. Fuji, which makes sense, seeing as the mountain was closed and the trails extensively patrolled and monitored. But what makes that special is the fact that it’s the first time in 30 years that no accidents occurred on Mt. Fuji during climbing season. Since the dormant volcano is a steep climb and has some very sheer cliffs along its hiking paths, it can be a dangerous place depending on weather and terrain conditions. That’s why, though it’s sad that many had to miss out on climbing the iconic mountain this year, it’s nice to know that more accidents were prevented than harm done.

Source: Sankei News via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso

Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2)
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