Did Hibernation Help Save a Hiker Stranded 24 Days?

CNET delves into the mystery of Mitsutaka Uchikoshi's survival
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 10, 2022 2:30 PM CDT
Did Hibernation Help Save a Hiker Stranded 24 Days?
This stock image shows the cable cars on Mount Rokko.   (Getty Images / jikgoe)

"What really happened to Mitsutaka Uchikoshi on that mountain in 2006?" It's a question that set Jackson Ryan off on a quest for answers in 2019. As he writes in a lengthy piece for CNET, Ryan has been transfixed by the "why" of Uchikoshi's survival since he learned of it. The 35-year-old Uchikoshi was picnicking with friends on Japan's Mount Rokko in October 2006. When finished, his group took a cable car down, but he opted to hike—and he fell. He broke his pelvis and was stranded, unable to move. Temps in the chilly fall evenings hit 50. He lost consciousness and was found 24 days later. He was extremely hypothermic—his core temp was measured at 72.3 degrees—and his organs were failing. And yet after 50 days in the hospital, he went home with no lingering conditions.

His survival was improbable, and it was his doctors' speculation that fascinated Ryan: that Uchikoshi survived because his body entered a state "similar to hibernation." As Ryan writes, "If his doctors were right, something must have changed in Uchikoshi's brain, enabling his body to enter an unheard-of period of stasis. But what exactly?" Ryan's search for the answer to that had him digging into research involving everything from "zombie dogs" and trauma patients to space travel and Q neurons. He also tracked down one of the doctors who treated Uchikoshi and has been chasing the same mystery ever since. After research that had him reviewing mountain weather patterns and computer simulations, the doctor's take is this: It can't definitively be called a case of hibernation, but Uchikoshi did enter a "torpor-like" condition. (Read the fascinating full story.)

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