Melting Ice Reveals Lost Climbers
Melting ice reveals lost climbers in the Alps. Remains of climbers lost over the generations have started to appear in the retreating glacial melt. Source:

One side effect of the recent warming trend is that melting glacial ice is starting to reveal the bodies of climbers that have been lost for decades or even centuries.

Alpine search and rescue works say that September is often the month that these discoveries are made. After the unusually warm summers the past few years, September has seen record lows in snow and ice pack in many of the popular climbing areas around the world. Rescue pilot Gerold Biner told the BBC, “The east face of the Matterhorn is covered in stuff. I always say you could open a mountain shop with what’s up there.”

In September of 2013 Biner found the body of lost British climber Jonathan Conville. Conville disappeared on the Matterhorn in 1979 and over the next 34 years his body had slowly traveled downhill pushed by the glacier. Biner found the body at the edge of the Matterhorn glacier where ice was being melted by unseasonable temperatures.

Biner’s discovery was just the first of many September discoveries. Within a few weeks last year four bodies were reveled in the melting September ice of the Alps. The first was of French climber Patrice Hyyert who disappeared in a storm on Mont Blanc in 1982. A few weeks later the bodies of two Japanese climbers were found on the Matterhorn glacier. The Japanese climbers had been lost in a storm in 1970. A few weeks after the discovery of the Japanese climbers, a Czech climber that had been killed in an avalanche in 1974 was found in the Swiss Alps.

Melting Ice Reveals Lost Climbers
Recovered boot from Japanese climbers lost in the Alps in 1970. Source:

In 2012 British climbers found the remains of three Swiss brothers that had been lost for 86 years. The brothers had disappeared in the Swiss Alps with their guide when a storm interrupted their climbing trip. The remains were found in the melting ice of the Aletschgletscher glacier. Police told reporters that, “Since 1926 there have been 280 persons who have disappeared in the mountains in the Valais region. With the melting of the glaciers it is likely that more and more often some of them will reappear.”

Melting Ice Reveals Lost Climbers
Binoculars found with remains of Swiss climbers revealed in melting ice after 86 years. Source:

Climbers have not been the only secrets reveled by the retreating ice. Recently a U.S. World War II bomber was discovered and an Air India plane that crashed on Mont Blanc in 1966 carrying a treasure trove of emeralds, rubies and sapphires was found. Glacier specialist Martin Grosjean told reporters that ice that has been permanent for thousands of years has begun to melt. The ancient ice melt in the Alps in the last few years has resulted in the finding of the 5,300-year-old Tyrolean iceman and hundreds of ancient artifacts from the Bronze Age and Roman civilization.

Melting Ice Reveals Lost Climbers
The 5,300-year-old Tyrolean iceman was found in melting ice in the Alps in 1991. Source:

Washington has also experienced how retreating ice can reveal lost remains. In July Mount Rainier National Park officials announced the discovery of the remains of Edwin Birch, 64, from Tacoma, who disappeared over a year ago while hiking a section of the Wonderland Trail. Birch was found by hikers who noticed his remains near the retreating Frying Pan Glacier. Officials said that normally the area where the body was found is covered in ice and snow.

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