LA PAZ, Bolivia — In the haunts of this city where climbers gather over plates of grilled llama and bottles of Paceña beer to swap tales of mountaineering derring-do, they feign boredom when talk turns to the 19,974-foot-high Huayna Potosí, a jagged Andean peak that looms over La Paz.Read the rest here.
“A training climb,” scoffs Julio Choque Alaña, 32, who guides foreigners up the mountains of Bolivia, which boasts peaks higher than the Alps and the Rockies.
But such bravado fades when talk shifts to what climbers are discovering on Huayna Potosí’s glacier: crumpled fuselage, decades-old pieces of wings and propellers, and, in November, the frozen body of Rafael Benjamín Pabón, a 27-year-old pilot whose Douglas DC-6 crashed into the mountain’s north face in 1990.
“When I found the pilot, he was still strapped into his seat, crunched over like he was sleeping, some black hair falling from his skull,” said Eulalio González, 49, the climber who carried Mr. Pabón’s mummified body down the mountain. “There are more ice mummies in the peaks above us,” he said. “Melting glaciers will bring them to us.”
The discovery of Mr. Pabón’s partially preserved remains was one of a growing number of finds pulled from the world’s glaciers and snow fields in recent years as warmer temperatures cause the ice and snow to melt, exposing their long-held secrets. The bodies that have emerged were mummified naturally, with extreme cold and dry air performing the work that resins and oils did for ancient Egyptians and other cultures.
Up and down the spine of the Andes, long plagued by airplane crashes and climbing mishaps, the discoveries are helping to solve decades-old mysteries.