The mountaineers who discovered the bodies of long-lost American climbers Alex Lowe and David Bridges in Tibet left them untouched out of respect—and it took them days to realize who they were. Swiss mountaineer Ueli Steck tells Reuters that he was on the way up Mount Shishapangma with German climber David Goettler when they found the bodies encased in ice at 19,356 feet. The men, who perished in an October 1999 avalanche, were just 6 feet apart. "We did not touch them out of respect and left the bodies on the mountain in the same position as we had discovered [them]," says Steck, considered one of the world's best mountaineers—just as Lowe was at the time of his death, notes the Guardian. "We didn't realize this could be Alex and David. But when we were back in base camp we were talking about this and were like—oh, these two bodies could be," Steck tells the AP.
Goettler called Conrad Anker, who survived the 1999 avalanche. Based on the description of the men's clothing and gear, Anker said he was sure that the bodies were those of Lowe, considered the best American climber of his generation, and renowned cameraman Bridges. Steck and Goettler were the only climbers to attempt the difficult southern route of Shishapangma this year, but they were unable to reach the summit in two attempts because of bad weather. Anker married Lowe's widow, Jennifer, in 2001 and adopted his three sons. "Conrad, the boys, and I will make our pilgrimage to Shishapangma," Jennifer Lowe-Anker said in a statement after the bodies were found. "It is time to put Alex to rest." (The mother of a vegan who died trying to climb Mount Everest is demanding answers.)