American Climber’s Body Found on Mountain Peru After 22 Years

By The New York Times (World News) | Created at 2024-07-10 13:40:13 | Updated at 2024-07-21 19:32:55 1 week ago


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Americas|22 Years Ago, He Disappeared in an Avalanche. His Body Was Just Found.

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Melting glaciers on Mount Huascarán in Peru helped uncover the body of Bill Stampfl, who disappeared while climbing the mountain with two friends.

A man in a blue collared shirt and jeans posing for a photo in a grassy field.
Bill Stampfl was climbing Mount Huascarán with two friends in 2002 when an avalanche struck. Credit...Janet Stampfl

July 10, 2024, 9:35 a.m. ET

Two decades after Bill Stampfl went missing during an avalanche while climbing Peru’s highest mountain, his daughter, Jennifer Stampfl, had more or less accepted that he was gone forever.

Sometimes she still had dreams of him, alive in Peru, amnesiac and unaware that he had family in the United States. She knew he had hated the cold, so the idea of his being trapped in ice was unsettling. But she thought she had made her peace with the mountain keeping her father.

Then, one Saturday last month, she got a call from her brother, Joseph Stampfl. He began: Are you sitting down?

“He told me that they found Dad,” she said. “And I said, ‘What?’”

A fellow American, Ryan Cooper, had tracked down Joseph Stampfl to tell him that he and a group of climbers had stumbled upon his father’s body on Mount Huascarán, a 22,205-foot peak in the Andes range. As climate change helped melt the mountain’s glaciers, Bill Stampfl’s body emerged from the ice that had preserved it since he went missing during an expedition with two friends in 2002, the Peruvian police said on Tuesday.

On June 27, the climbers were descending Mount Huascarán when they saw a dark shape that stood out against the snow, Mr. Cooper, 44, a personal trainer from Las Vegas, said in an interview on Tuesday. As they drew closer, they saw that it was a body, curled in a defensive position, like someone trying to protect himself during an avalanche, he said.

The body was completely exposed atop the ice, Mr. Cooper said. “Not like half of him was under the ice or anything — he was on top of the ice,” he said. Judging by the outdated clothing and the mummified condition of its skin, Mr. Cooper said, it was clear that the body had been there for a “really long time.”

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