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Wedding Ring, Passport, Camera Intact as Missing Climber Found After 22 Years

The body of an American mountaineer has been discovered by a pair of fellow US climbers 22 years after he went missing.

He went missing in 2002, following an avalanche in the Peruvian Andes.

American brothers Ryan Cooper and Wesley Waren found the body of Bill Stampfl on June 27 on Mount Huascaran,according to Joseph Stampfl, Bill’s son.

The climbers had been descending the mountain in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca after an unsuccessful attempt to reach its 22,000 ft summit when they found the body, at about 16,500 ft.

Cooper told CNN Tuesday they noticed an object that didn’t quite blend into the landscape and decided to investigate.

He said the ice had preserved the body and its belongings and Stampfl’s wedding ring, helmet, mountain climbing boots, and jacket were all intact.

The brothers managed to identify Stampfl by finding a bag attached to his body, inside which they found his identification card, a camera, passport, wallet, and glasses – all of which were also intact, Cooper explained.

“Someone loved him and someone wanted him to come home,” Cooper said.

“As soon as I found out he was an American climber I knew we had a responsibility to track down the family and give them the news,” Cooper said.
The tragedy
Stampfl and two of his fellow climbers and friends, Steve Erskine and Matthew Richardson, were all killed by an avalanche on Mount Huascaran on June 24, 2002, his daughter Jennifer Stampfl told CNN on Tuesday.

Their bodies were never discovered, except for Erskine’s, she said. Stampfl was 58-years-old at the time.

His body was retrieved and brought down the mountain on July 5 by the Peruvian Mountain Rescue Association and Peruvian National Police after coordination with Cooper and Stampfl’s family.

His body was taken to a morgue in the town of Yungay for an autopsy, Peru’s National Police posted on X on Tuesday.
Finding Bill’s family
Cooper, a native of Las Vegas, Nevada, called his wife and informed her of his discovery the same day he came across Stampfl’s body. 

He asked her for help in finding Stampfl’s family, as he was still on Mount Huascaran with limited cellular service.

After much online research, Cooper’s wife was able to locate Joseph and called him on June 29.

“I told him I know the location of his dad. I told him about the ring and personal items,” Cooper said.

His motive was to help the family find closure, Cooper explained.

With “no body, there’s no way to find peace with that,” Cooper said.

Cooper also spoke to Jennifer and Stampfl’s widow Janeton the phone before sending photos of Stampfl’s ID and other belongings to the family.

My heart just sank – Widow

After so many years, the news came as an emotional shock to Stampfl’s family.

“My heart just sank. After 22 years I had been okay with the fact that he’s there. He’s part of the mountain. Like we’re never going to get him back. The fact that they found him, it opened up all the wounds,” Jennifer told CNN on Tuesday.

“There is no preparation for having your husband killed instantaneously,” Janet said, adding that she never thought her husband’s body would be discovered. “It’s an answer to so many prayers by so many people.”

Janet said her husband loved climbing mountains. “He enjoyed it so much. He said he always felt closest to God when he got to the top of the mountain,” Janet said.

“After 22 years…I was a little shocked, it took me a while to process everything,” Joseph said, adding “now it’s time to bring him home hopefully.” CNN

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Written by Charles Daisi

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