Singapore couple stranded on Japan mountain saved by sheltering in tiny cave
Lost on Hokkaido mountain, they could have died if exposed to winds, says rescuer
The newlyweds from Singapore decided to trek up Hokkaido’s tallest mountain, Asahidake, as part of their honeymoon in Japan, but their adventure almost cost them their lives when they got lost in sub-zero temperatures after the weather took a turn for the worse.
They were stranded overnight for 22 hours and would have died had they been exposed to the freezing cold — reports said it was minus 7 deg C — and icy winds.
Fortunately, Ms Amelda Lim, a Singaporean, and her Malaysian husband, Mr Long Ji Yung, were able to shelter inside a small cave.
The couple, both 28, were with an elderly Japanese couple they had met while hiking up the 2,291m-tall mountain on Tuesday.
Ms Lim told The New Paper over the phone yesterday that the cave was so tiny that the four of them could only fit in snugly while sitting down.
They made two distress calls for help and were rescued the next afternoon. Mr Long was suffering from mild hypothermia by then.
Ms Lim - an interior designer who had married Mr Long, an accounts executive in a travel firm who has lived in Singapore for many years, just three days before their misadventure - said they had planned to spend a day on the mountain.
Two hours into their hike, the winds grew stronger and it started to rain and hail, forcing the four of them to turn back.
Ms Lim said: "It was just mist and fog at first, then it suddenly rained. The rain was like hail because it was frozen."The snow was so deep that they could not see the markers on the ground and wandered off the trail.
"We went off course because it was so foggy and could not see anything," she said.After they found a small cave, they took shelter inside and covered the entrance with their raincoats to keep out the wind.
They had food and water, and ate high-calorie snacks, including chocolates and energy bars, throughout the night.In the middle of the night, Mr Long started vomiting. He also had difficulty talking and moving, said Ms Lim.
As he lay on the ground, she hugged him to keep him warm. The couple were wearing full winter gear of four layers each.
Said Ms Lim: "The elderly couple were very calm as we waited for help to come.
"It helped me and my husband believe that we would eventually get home somehow.
"The Japanese man, Mr Masahiko Kato, 71, could speak some English, so they chatted to pass time.
Only Mr Kato's phone had reception, and he made a distress call at 6.35pm local time on Tuesday, the Hokkaido Shimbun reported.The next day at about 7am, Ms Lim made a second call using Mr Sato's SIM card after his phone died.
She told TNP that while they knew a helicopter would be looking for them, they did not expect a search team on the ground.Twenty-two hours into their ordeal, they were relieved to hear people shouting for them.A
bout 70 personnel from the local mountain rescue team and the Japan Ground Self-Defence Force were involved in the search-and-rescue operation, the newspaper reported. It said the snow where the couple was found was 30cm to 40cm deep.
The rescuers had seen footprints before spotting the headlamps of the four and called out to ask if they were all right.
Mr Kato replied in Japanese: "We are okay. All of us are alive."
The four cheered after they were rescued.
The rescue team leader said they would have died had they been exposed to the winds.
They were found 1.5km south-east of Asahidake's Sugatami ropeway station, about 1,600m above sea level, at about 4.40pm on Wednesday.
Ms Lim said she was relieved when she saw the rescuers. All four were taken to Asahikawa Medical University Hospital, where Ms Lim called home to tell their families the good news.
Both will be discharged today. Ms Lim added they will continue their honeymoon in Japan and will return home at the end of October.
"We apologise for the trouble we caused, and we are extremely grateful to our rescuers. We owe our lives to them," she said.