The mysteries hidden atop Ecuador’s tallest volcano

Climber discovers bodies of three people buried in snow on Chimborazo over 20 years ago

A group of rescue workers on the Chimborazo volcano.
A group of rescue workers on the Chimborazo volcano.AFP

The thawing glaciers on Mount Chimborazo, Ecuador’s tallest volcano at 6,310 meters, are revealing stories long buried under the snow.

Last weekend, a tour guide found human remains and mountain gear half buried at an altitude of 5,600 meters. Rescue teams climbed up to the site and found body parts belonging to three climbers who police said had been buried there for over 20 years judging by their clothing and by the presence of a photo camera with a film roll. No identification was found near the bodies, nor had the police received any reports of missing persons in the area. The corpses were subsequently taken to the forensics center in Quito.

The bodies belonged to three mountain climbers who died in an avalanche in 1993

The mystery was solved on Tuesday when relatives of the deceased – two Ecuadorians and one Chilean citizen – showed up at the forensics laboratory. They said that their family members had been buried in the snow 22 years ago. The deceased had been participating in an expedition with a group of French and Swiss climbers who died in an avalanche on November 10, 1993. Most of the bodies were recovered and sent home except for the three mountaineers whose remains were discovered last week.

Colonel Marco Ortíz said the families recognized the clothing that the dead were wearing and showed him newspaper clippings about the accident. They said that they had obtained death certificates and knew that sooner or later, the mountain would bring the bodies of their loved ones to light. Now, the remains will be returned to their families.

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This is not the first time that missing bodies have been found on Mount Chimborazo. In 1976, an Ecuadorian plane disappeared with 59 passengers aboard. In 2003, a group of climbers found the wreckage and authorities subsequently determined that the plane had crashed into the mountain. After 27 years, the truth gave the victims’ relatives a sense of closure, but they decided to leave the bodies in the snow that had sheltered them for nearly 30 years.

Translation by Dyane Jean Francois

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