The remains of two long-lost Japanese climbers have been identified, almost a year after they were found at the foot of Switzerland's Matterhorn glacier.

Climbers Michio Oikawa and Masayuki Kobayashi, who were 22 and 21 respectively, were last seen in August 1970 - having disappeared 45 years ago.

They were identified through DNA testing of their relatives, police said on 6 August.

An official at the Japanese consulate in Geneva could not say if their remains would be repatriated to their homeland, saying: "We are making the necessary arrangements according to the wishes of the families."

'Surprised by a snow storm'

The climbers' remains were discovered last September at an altitude of about 2,800m (9,186ft) on the Matterhorn, which is 4,478-metres tall (14,692ft) and straddles the borders of Switzerland and Italy.

"They had spent the night before in a hut because they wanted to ascend the north face of the Matterhorn. They were probably surprised by a snow storm when they disappeared," state police spokesman Stephane Vouardoux told Reuters.

"The snow storm lasted a few days which prevented the rescue teams from searching."

More than 500 people have lost their lives on the Matterhorn since 1865. Shrinking glaciers occasionally reveal the bodies of climbers who have disappeared while attempting to climb the mountain, though dozens of missing climbers have never been found.

Earlier this month, the World Glacier Monitoring Service said glaciers are melting at rates never seen before in recorded history.

The first ascent of the Matterhorn, on 14 July 1865, ended in tragedy. Englishman Edward Whymper and six others managed to ascend the iconic mountain, but four fell to their deaths during the descent.