The bodies of two missing mountain climbers have been found 30 years after they disappeared in the Himalayas

By Robyn Merrett
December 12, 2018 07:36 PM
Courtesy Steve Aisthorpe

The bodies of two missing mountain climbers have been found — 30 years after they disappeared in the Himalayas.

Steve Aisthorpe, who was with Kristinn Rúnarsson and Thorsteinn Gudjonsson for the expedition to Pumori on the Nepal-Tibet border in 1988, says he finally has the closure he’s longed for, The Church of Scotland reported on its website.

Rúnarsson and Gudjonsson’s remains were discovered at the bottom of a glacier in November by an American mountaineer.

Aisthorpe said considering the positioning of the bodies and the ropes, he believes that the climbers fell from the face of the mountain and their remains were carried away by a retreating glacier.

Following the discovery, the bodies were brought to Kathmandu, Nepal and a memorial service was held. The two men were cremated, and their ashes were then transported to their home of Iceland.

Aisthorpe, 55, a mission development worker for the Church of Scotland, met Gudjonsson in 1987 after they were introduced by a fellow mountaineer, the Church reports.

The following year, the men, including Rúnarsson and Jon Geirsson set off on their ill-fated excursion.

During the trek, Aisthorpe became sick with the flu and made his way down from where they set up camp on the upper Changri Shar glacier to a local village to consult with a doctor.

West face of Pumori
Courtesy Steve Aisthorpe

After being told he would need a significant amount of time to recover, Aisthorpe said that’s when he told Gudjonsson and Rúnarsson, who were both 27 at the time, to continue on the trail without him. That was the last time he heard from them.

Following his recovery, Aisthorpe climbed back to camp, where he found the tents belonging to the men completely empty.

“I’ve never felt as alone as the day I arrived back at our high camp,” Aisthorpe told The Church of Scotland.

“As I worked my way upwards, I desperately hoped that Kristinn and Thorsteinn had descended safely and were now lying in their sleeping bags in the tiny red tent camp.”

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

Kristinn Rúnarsson on the lower part of West face of Pumori
Courtesy Steve Aisthorpe

“As it came into my view, I called out at the top of my voice — my calls echoed from the rocks and ice before fading.”

“Even as I finally reached and then unzipped the tent, I still nurtured a hope that the boys would by lying there, comatose, sleeping off the climb of their lives,” Aisthorpe continued to The Church of Scotland.

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“But it was empty and I scanned our route up the steep face above, but nothing moved.”

“It was then that my guts started to twist and a cold sweat began.”

Kristinn Rúnarsson
Courtesy Steve Aisthorpe

Aisthorpe says he then got together a search team, but because helicopters during that time “were not capable of the kinds of searches and rescues that take place in the Himalayas,” they were unsuccessful.

Aisthorpe then began to accept the idea that his two friends may have fallen and died.

At the time of the incident, Rúnarsson’s fiancee was pregnant. She later gave birth to a son, who is now 30 years old.

When describing the men, Aisthorpe said they were easy-going and very experienced in climbing.

“The discovery of the remains of Thorsteinn and Kristinn after so many years have inevitably brought many emotions to the surface for all who knew and loved these wonderful guys,” Aisthorpe said.

Steve Aisthorpe
Courtesy Steve Aisthorpe

Up until three weeks ago, Aisthorpe hadn’t heard anything about his missing friends. It was around that time that he was contacted by an Icelandic filmmaker, who wanted to make a documentary about his travels, told him the news.

“What ran through my mind, first of all, was: ‘Is it really their bodies?'”

“The two things that’s happened over the last three weeks is closure and the other thing is that it’s brought us all together again,” Aisthorpe told The Guardian.

Since the incident, Aisthorpe has remained an avid climber. He returned to Nepal each spring until deciding to move there in 1995. He stayed for 12 years with his wife Liz and their two sons John and Scott, The Church of Scotland reported.