Father of missing hiker returns from Mount Fuji

AP News
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Posted: Feb 15, 2012 5:06 PM
Father of missing hiker returns from Mount Fuji

The latest search for a man who went missing more than a month ago while hiking on Japan's Mount Fuji was unsuccessful, his father said Wednesday.

Jerry Johnson spoke to The Associated Press after returning to Michigan following a week of searching the 12,388-foot (3,775-meter) peak, which is covered in snow and ice.

"We just need a break," he said.

His son, Matthew, last was seen Jan. 13 on the mountain. Described as an avid hiker and outdoorsman, the 33-year-old software engineer for Eaton Corp. was in Japan on business.

His car was found parked at Mount Fuji. Heavy snow early on prevented rescue crews from continuing their search. Helicopters also have been used in the search for Johnson, who lives in western Michigan.

In January, police said one other person was missing on the mountain and a third had died at that point during the winter.

Jerry Johnson said he and a son-in-law camped at a station on the mountain, and snow on the upper part of the peak was about 3 feet (1 meter) deep.

"We had some expert climbers that were able to get all over the mountain and down in the woods," he said. "And they just looked everywhere and there's no sign."

Some of Matthew's gear or other signs may be found when the weather gets warmer, he added.

"Now, we have to get lucky," the 58-year-old Jerry Johnson said. "There are a lot of people who do go up on the mountain in the winter. By mid-May the snow will start to melt and more climbers will go up and usually somebody sees something _ equipment or something. May or June ... would be the logical recovery when the snow melts."

Information from last week's search has been shared with a police search group. Mount Fuji, near Tokyo, is popular in the summer but considered extremely dangerous in the winter.

In 2009, 30-year-old American Jerry Yu and 27-year-old Takeshi Nakamura, of Japan, were found dead on the mountain. Investigators said then that the two men were believed to have succumbed to hypothermia near the peak.