Body of missing mountaineer found after 26 years

By Xinhua

Chengdu (China) : A rescue team in Sichuan province of China has discovered a body believed to be that of a Japanese mountaineer who went missing 26 years ago, the mountaineering association said Tuesday.

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The team was in fact searching for Australian climber, Andrew Clem Lindenmayer, 47, missing in the area since last month when villagers reported the discovery on Mount Gongga to them.

A 12-strong mountaineering team from Hokkaido, Japan, had set out to climb Mount Gongga in May 1981, but eight members disappeared after a fall when the team was moving to an area 7,450 meters above sea level.

"The team apparently ran into atrocious weather," said Gao Ming, deputy secretary-in-chief of the association who had returned from the site.

"The discovery may be a comfort to the victim's family who have been without news for so long," said Gao.

"Villagers found the body on June 4 on a glacier 4,040 meters above sea level when they were picking medicinal herbs in the area," said Gao.

"After studying the clothing and the equipment found on the body, we believe the victim is one of the eight Japanese mountaineers who went missing more than a quarter of a century ago," said Gao.

"We have emailed our Japanese counterparts (about the discovery) but the identity of the body won't be confirmed until we get results of DNA tests," said Gao.

"According to international practice, we buried the body where it was found," he said.

Efforts to find the missing climbers have continued since Chinese and Japanese climbers jointly launched a first search operation in 1994.

The official attributed the discovery after nearly three decades to the melting of glaciers under the effect of global warming.

"The body was probably buried deep in the ice but as the glacier has thawed it became visible," he said.

Gongga — Tibetan for "highest snow-capped mountain" — attracts both tourists and mountaineers to its soaring peaks and panoramic scenery. It has more than 20 peaks above 6,000 meters, the highest at 7,556 meters.

The number of accidents is on the rise with more and more climbers on the mountain since the 1950s.