Fukushima expedition to climb 4 unscaled Karakorum peaks
The Yomiuri Shimbun
FUKUSHIMA--The Fukushima Prefecture chapter of the Japanese Alpine Club will send an expedition to climb four unscaled peaks in Pakistan's Karakorum mountain range, in a bid to encourage the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake, it has been learned.
The expedition is also meant to show the world the determination of the people affected by the disaster.
Scheduled to depart in July, the expedition will take on the 6,000-meter-class peaks in a joint team with Pakistani climbers.
If they conquer the unnamed peaks for the first time, the climbers will be given the right to name them by the Pakistani government. The alpine club hopes to name the peaks with words related to "restoration" and "hope" if local people agree with the idea. "We'd like to encourage Fukushima residents," said Tsuneo Miyamori, 80, captain of the expedition, who conceived the idea of the mission.
The expedition comprises about 20 people, including about 15 Japanese members mainly in their 60s.
Miyamori, the oldest member of the expedition, successfully climbed three unscaled 6,000-meter-class peaks in Pakistan's Hindukush mountain range in 1967. In 1977, he joined an expedition to climb K2, the world's second-highest mountain, as a technical member in charge of surveying.
That expedition was also sponsored by the alpine club.
While he was mapping glaciers during more than 40 visits to Pakistan, he noticed that the four peaks, whose heights range from 6,006 meters to 6,057 meters, were unscaled.
The Fukushima chapter planned the July expedition as its first overseas expedition to mark its 65th anniversary and started preparation with the Pakistani side in the autumn of 2010.
However, after the earthquake and tsunami and the outbreak of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March last year, organizers began considering canceling the expedition.
Miyamori, who runs an antique store in Aizu-Wakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, was one of the many who suffered damage from the earthquake. Some of the ceramics displayed in his store were broken, and he was forced to close a part of the store.
Kazuo Sato, 64, who heads the climbing team and hails from the city of Fukushima, was also affected by the disaster.
Concerned about the effects of radiation from the crippled nuclear power plant, his daughter, 38, who had lived in his neighborhood, evacuated to Akita with her two daughters.
Shortly after the earthquake, Sato received an e-mail from a Pakistani member of the expedition, who was concerned about the effect of radiation on Sato's health. The e-mail said, "Emigrate to Pakistan as soon as possible."
However, all members of the expedition agreed they wanted to show the world that Fukushima will never give in to the disaster. In April last year, the decision to carry out the expedition project was officially made.
The Pakistani ambassador to Japan, who knew about the project, invited Miyamori to the embassy in Tokyo in April this year and encouraged him.
The expedition is scheduled to leave Japan on July 9 and return on Aug. 3. The climbers plan to plant a flag with an image of Kibitan, Fukushima Prefecture's mascot character, on it together with the national flags of both countries on each peak.
Miyamori and Sato said they wanted to tell the world from the mountaintops that "Fukushima is doing OK."
(Jun. 9, 2012)