Body of American Climber Recovered 22 Years After Avalanche in Peru
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Body of American Climber Recovered 22 Years After Avalanche in Peru

Twenty-two years ago, an avalanche buried American climber Bill Stampfl as he ascended one of the highest peaks in the Andes mountains. His family had little hope of finding him alive or retrieving his body from the thick snow and ice sheets covering the 6,700-meter (22,000-foot) Huascaran peak.

In June, Stampfl’s son received a call from a stranger who had discovered the climber’s frozen, mostly intact body during his own ascent of Huascaran. as reported by NBC News.

“It was so out of left field. We talk about my dad, we think about him all the time,” Joseph Stampfl said. “You just never think you are going to get that call.” He shared the news with his family, and his sister Jennifer described the moment as shocking. “When you get that phone call that he’s been found, your heart just sinks. You don’t know how exactly to feel at first.”

On Tuesday, Peruvian police recovered Stampfl’s body from the mountain. He had been buried by an avalanche in 2002 while climbing with two friends who were also killed. A team of policemen and mountain guides transported Stampfl’s body down the icy mountain on a stretcher, covered in an orange tarp. The body was found at an altitude of 5,200 meters (17,060 feet), about a nine-hour hike from one of the camps climbers use on Huascaran.

Jennifer Stampfl said the family plans to move the body to a funeral home in Lima, where it will be cremated and his ashes repatriated. “For 22 years, we just kind of put in our mind: ‘This is the way it is. Dad’s part of the mountain, and he’s never coming home,’” she said. report from The New York Post.

Police noted that Stampfl’s body and clothing were preserved by the ice and freezing temperatures. His driver’s license, found inside a hip pouch, identified him as a resident of Chino, California, in San Bernardino County. The recovery effort began after an American climber found the body while making his way to Huascaran’s summit. The climber read the name on the driver’s license and contacted Stampfl’s relatives, who then coordinated with local mountain guides.

Joseph Stampfl said they worked with a Peruvian mountain rescue association to retrieve his father’s body, which was located 915 to 1,200 meters (3,000 to 4,000 feet) below where he and his friends were believed to have been killed. “He was no longer encased in ice,” he said. “He still has got his boots on.”

A team of 13 mountaineers, including five elite police officers and eight mountain guides from Grupo Alpamayo, participated in the recovery operation. Eric Raul Albino, the director of Grupo Alpamayo, was hired by Stampfl’s family to retrieve the body. Lenin Alvarado, a police officer involved in the recovery, noted that Stampfl’s clothes were mostly intact, and his hip pouch contained sunglasses, a camera, a voice recorder, and two decomposing $20 bills. A gold wedding ring was still on his left hand. “I’ve never seen anything like that,” Alvarado said. told by Arab News PK.

Huascaran is Peru’s highest peak, attracting hundreds of climbers each year. However, climate change has impacted the Cordillera Blanca, which includes Huascaran. The region has lost 27% of its ice sheet over the past five decades.

In 2002, Stampfl was climbing Huascaran with friends Matthew Richardson and Steve Erskine. The trio, who had climbed challenging mountains worldwide, including Kilimanjaro, Rainier, Shasta, and Denali, were killed by the avalanche. Erskine’s body was found shortly after the avalanche, but Richardson’s body remains missing.

A plaque in memory of the three friends was placed at the summit of Mount Baldy in Southern California, where they trained for their expeditions. Jennifer Stampfl mentioned that they might return to the site with her father’s remains.

Janet Stampfl-Raymer, Bill’s wife, said her husband was a kind, humble man who loved God and the mountains. “We all just dearly loved my husband. He was one of a kind,” she said. “We’re very grateful we can bring his body home to rest,” Jennifer added that her father carefully planned his mountaineering expeditions and did not like drawing attention to himself. “The fact that he is in the news, it is so not my dad,” she said.

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