Mountaineer’s Remains Found on Peru’s Highest Mountain After 22 Years

Peruvian authorities announced on Tuesday that they have recovered the body of an American mountaineer, William Stampfl, who perished in an avalanche 22 years ago while attempting to ascend one of the Andes’ highest peaks with two companions.

Stampfl’s remains were discovered on Friday near a camp situated at an elevation of 17,060 feet. The 58-year-old was attempting to scale Mount Huascaran when the avalanche struck, likely claiming the lives of all three climbers.

Police stated that Stampfl’s body and clothing were remarkably preserved by the ice and frigid temperatures. His driver’s license was found within a hip pouch, also well-preserved by the cold, identifying him as a resident of Chino, California.

The effort to retrieve Stampfl’s remains commenced last week when another American climber stumbled upon the frozen body while ascending Huascaran. The climber discovered the driver’s license within the pouch, contacted Stampfl’s relatives, who then reached out to local mountain guides.

A team of 13 mountaineers, comprising five officers from an elite police unit and eight mountain guides affiliated with Grupo Alpamayo, a local tour operator specializing in Huascaran and other Andean peaks, participated in the recovery operation.

Stampfl’s body was transported down the mountain over the weekend and taken to a morgue in the city of Yungay.

Eric Raul Albino, the director of Grupo Alpamayo, revealed that Stampfl’s family hired his company to recover the body from the mountain.

“The climber (who initially discovered Stampfl’s body) opened the hip pouch and noticed a driver’s license with his name and address,” Albino told The Associated Press. “He contacted the family, and they then reached out to me.”

Lenin Alvardo, one of the police officers involved in the recovery operation, described Stampfl’s clothes as mostly intact, preserved by the cold. The hip pouch containing his driver’s license also held a pair of sunglasses, a camera, a voice recorder, and two decomposing $20 bills.

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Alvarado remarked.

Huascaran, Peru’s highest peak, attracts hundreds of climbers annually who seek to reach its summit, typically requiring a week-long expedition with local guides.

However, climate change has impacted Huascaran and surrounding peaks exceeding 5,000 meters, collectively known as the Cordillera Blanca. Official data indicates that the Cordillera Blanca has lost 27% of its ice sheet over the past five decades.

Stampfl was accompanied by his friends, Matthew Richardson and Steve Erskine, when they attempted to climb Huascaran in 2002. The trio had travelled the globe, conquering challenging mountains, including Kilimanjaro, Rainier, and Shasta, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times at the time.

Erskine’s body was recovered shortly after the avalanche on Huascaran, but Richardson remains missing.