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American climber's body found on Huascaran

The body of Bill Stampfl, lost for 22 years on Huascaran, has been recovered. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Inertia

A little over two decades ago, a man named Bill Stampfl was killed in an avalanche as he attempted to summit Huascaran, one of the highest peaks in the Peruvian Andes. The American climber’s body was lost for 22 years, but in June of 2024, his son Joseph received a phone call that he had given up expecting. A stranger had found Bill Stampfl’s remains.

“It was so out of left field. We talk about my dad, we think about him all the time,” Joseph told the Associated Press. “You just never think you are going to get that call.”

Two brothers, Ryan Cooper and Wesley Waren, found Stampfl’s body on June 27. It was mostly all in one piece, and it was completely frozen, and now Peruvian officials have recovered it. Stampfl, sadly, wasn’t the only one killed in that avalanche — two of his climbing partners were, as well. Matthew Richardson and Steve Erskine often climbed with Stampfl, and together they had stood atop Kilimanjaro, Rainier, Shasta, and Denali in the years prior to their deaths. While Erskine’s body was found in the days following the avalanche, Richardson’s has not yet been located.

Huascaran is a 22,000-foot peak. Stampfl’s body was found at 17,060 feet, which is still nearly 10 hours from a camp that climbers will stop to rest before making a summit attempt. When officials found him, the body was gingerly carried out on a stretcher covered in an orange tarp.

According to Stampfl’s daughter, Jennifer, the family is planning to have his body taken to a funeral home in Lima, Peru where it can be cremated before sending his ashes home to America.

“For 22 years, we just kind of put in our mind that ’This is the way it is,’ she said. “‘Dad’s part of the mountain, and he’s never coming home.’”

Peruvian police were able to positively identify Stampfl by his driver’s license, which was found in a pouch on his hip. Also in the pouch was a pair of sunglasses, a camera, a voice recorder, and $40. He was still wearing his wedding ring.

Stampfl’s wife is relieved that the wait for her husband’s body is over.

“He was a kind man. He was humble. He loved God, and he loved the mountains,” she said. “We all just dearly loved my husband. He was one of a kind. We’re very grateful we can bring his body home to rest.”


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