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30 Years After They Vanished on the Mountain, 'Closure'

Steve Aisthorpe grateful that 2 friends who disappeared in Himalayas in 1988 have been found
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2018 9:10 AM CST
Updated Dec 15, 2018 4:00 PM CST
A photo of Pumori, where Kristinn Runarsson and Thorsteinn Gudjonsson vanished in October 1988.   (Getty Images/fotofred8848)

(Newser) – The bodies of those who succumb to the Himalayan mountains likely stay on the slopes forever—it's often too difficult, dangerous, and costly to retrieve them. That fact didn't stop Steve Aisthorpe of Scotland from his recent mission on the Nepal-Tibet border: to get "closure" on the fate of Kristinn Runarsson and Thorsteinn Gudjonsson, friends and fellow climbers who vanished during a 1988 expedition with him. Aisthorpe, who the Guardian notes found out just a few weeks ago his friends' bodies had been seen at the end of a glacier on Pumori mountain, recalls on the Church of Scotland's website how his group started as four climbers in October of that year, though one of the men fell ill early on and dropped out. Aisthorpe, then 26, came down with the flu, and so he climbed back down on Oct. 16, 1988, to seek medical attention.

When Aisthorpe realized he was in no condition to attempt the climb, he sent a message back to Runarsson and Gudjonsson, both 27 and from Iceland: "Feel free" to go for the summit without him. The two men were never seen alive again after Oct. 18. When Aisthorpe finally felt well enough to head back to the last camp where he'd left his friends, "my calls echoed from the rocks and ice before fading. … the silence was palpable." Fast-forward 30 years, when an American climber spotted their bodies just last month; a group of local climbers brought the remains down. Among those at the cremation ceremony in Kathmandu for the men was Runarsson’s 30-year-old son; Runarsson’s fiancee had been pregnant when the father of her child was lost to Pumori. More on their tale here. (Two highly experienced climbers died on El Capitan over the summer.)

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