US mountaineer buried by avalanche 22 years ago found preserved in ice, police say

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Police have found the well-preserved body of an American mountaineer who was buried by an avalanche 22 years ago as he tried to climb one of the highest peaks in the Andes.

Police in the Ancash region found the body of William Stampfl on Friday near a camp 5,200 meters (17,060 ft) above sea level. The 58-year-old Stampfl had been trying to climb the 6,768-meter Mount Huascarán.

Police said Stampfl’s body was preserved by the ice and freezing temperatures and still had well-preserved climbing boots, crampons and clothing. They said the body was easy to identify also because the climber had been carrying his driving license and passport.

Hundreds of climbers visit the mountain each year with local guides, and it takes them about a week to reach the summit.

Stampfl, a self-employed civil engineer born in Austria, was with friends Matthew Richardson and Steve Erskine when they attempted the ascent in 2002.

Erskine’s body was found shortly after the avalanche, but Richardson’s is still missing.

Stampfl’s body was brought down the mountain over the weekend by guides and police officers and put in a morgue in the city of Huaraz.

As global warming causes glaciers around the world melt and recede, authorities have registered a significant increase in the number of human remains, as the bodies of hikers and climbers are released from the ice and snow.

Glacial mass in the region has been retreating for about the last 10 years, said Edson Ramirez, a park ranger and risk assessor for the Huascarán national park. “What was buried years ago is coming to the surface.”

Peru has an estimated 68% of the world’s tropical glaciers, which are among the most vulnerable ice packs in a warming planet. A November report by Peru’s government shows the country has lost 56% of its tropical glaciers in the last six decades.

Many of those glaciers lie in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca, where the Huascarán and other famed mountains draw thousands of climbers a year.

In May, the body of an Israeli hiker was found there nearly a month after he disappeared.

  • Associated Press and Reuters contributed reporting


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