US Climber’s Body Found 22 Years After He Disappeared In Avalanche On Peru’s Highest Mountain

The body of an American mountaineer has been found 22 years after he disappeared while climbing one of the highest peaks in the Andes mountains in Peru, the police said on Monday. The discovery has been attributed to climate-change-induced ice melt. 

According to an AFP report, William Stampfl, then 58, was reported missing in June 2002, after an avalanche buried him and his two friends during an attempt to climb the 6,700-metre Huascaran mountain.

An AFP report said Stampfl’s body, his clothes, harness and boots were well-preserved by the cold. Peruvian police were reported as saying that Stampfl’s remains were exposed by ice melt on the Cordillera Blanca range of the Andes. 

A team of 13 mountaineers participated in the recovery operation, including five officers from an elite police unit. The body was found at an altitude of 5,200 metres, which is about a nine-hour hike from one of the camps set up along the route to the summit, according to Associated Press (AP).

Efforts to retrieve Stampfl’s body began last week after an American climber came upon the frozen body while making his way to the summit. He opened a pouch Stampfl was carrying and found a driver’s licence, which helped him identify him and track down his family, who then got in touch with local mountain guides.

Mountaineer To Be Cremated

Over the years, Stampfl’s family had made their peace with the fact that there was little hope of finding him alive or even retrieving his corpse from the snowy peak. The call from the climber, also an American, came as a bolt from the blue.

Stampfl’s daughter Jennifer has been quoted as saying that they would move the body to a funeral home in Lima, Peru’s capital, where he will be cremated and his ashes repatriated.

Huascaran is Peru’s highest peak, and hundreds of climbers visit the mountain every year with local guides. It takes about a week to reach the summit. 

According to AP, the Cordillera Blanca range, which includes the Huascaran, has been suffering the impacts of climate change. The AP report quotes official figures as saying that the range has lost 27% of its ice sheet over the past five decades.

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