Overconfidence puts elderly climbers at risk

Overconfidence puts elderly climbers at risk

More than 40 per cent of the people who ran into trouble during mountain climbing season last year in Nagano Prefecture, the area with the most climbing accidents in the nation, were veterans aged at least 60 and with 10 or more years of experience, a survey shows.

The survey was conducted by the Nagano Prefecture Comprehensive Mountaineering Center.

The centre believes these climbers do not realise their physical capabilities have declined and are choosing their peaks as they did in younger days. It therefore plans to hold a climbing class this fiscal year aimed at middle-aged and elderly climbers.

Questionnaires were distributed to 83 people who had requested help after such accidents as sliding down a slope or falling in areas including the Northern Alps and the Yatsugatake mountains from July 2 to Sept. 3 last year. The centre received answers from 74.

Ninety per cent of the respondents were from outside Nagano Prefecture, and 47, or 64 per cent, were aged 60 or older.

Thirty-two, or 43 per cent of the total, had at least 10 years of climbing experience. Among the 32, 24 said they believed they were in better physical condition than other people of their generation.

"Walking speed is one of the indicators of physical ability, but I think people don't realise that their bodies have weakened and are choosing mountains beyond their actual abilities," said Hiroyasu Sugita, 61, head of the mountaineering centre.

Beginning in May, the centre will hold a three-part class for climbers 60 and over. Instructors will include Hiroshi Nose, a professor of exercise physiology at Shinshu University.

Each session will involve climbing a low mountain in Nagano Prefecture during a one-night, two day period, with participants assessing their physical capabilities as they climb. They will also learn necessary training methods.

The class will also cover such subjects as how to walk without causing pain in the knees and lightening the load climbers carry.

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