A Scottish mountaineer who spent weeks searching for two friends who disappeared in the Himalayas more than 30 years ago has spoken of his relief after their remains were finally found.
The bodies of Icelanders Kristinn Runarsson and Thorsteinn Gudjonsson were discovered at the bottom of a glacier by an American climber last month, according to a report from the Church of Scotland.
Climber Steve Aisthorpe, a Church official, was with the two men during an October 1988 expedition to climb Pumori, a challenging 7,161 meter (23,494 foot) mountain near Everest, and said the discovery had united those who knew the pair and had brought closure.
“The discovery of the remains of Thorsteinn and Kristinn after so many years has inevitably brought many emotions to the surface for all who knew and loved these wonderful guys,” he said.
“But it has also brought people together and, I pray, will help with greater closure and, in time, peace.”
He said the bodies had likely been brought down the mountain by the retreating glacier. They were taken to Kathmandu for cremation and the ashes returned to Iceland.
Aisthorpe, a mission development worker, was forced to abandon his own summit attempt when he fell ill but encouraged the pair to continue without him.
He said that when he returned to their camp he felt a sense of foreboding.
“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,” he said.
“As it came into view, I called out at the top of my voice – my calls echoed from the rocks and ice before fading. But the silence was palpable.”
He added that the positioning of the pair’s ropes suggested that they had summited, or got close to summiting, the mountain.
Camera film discovered in the pocket of one of them had been sent to an expert for processing and could provide further clues to how they died, Aisthorpe said.
Runarsson’s girlfriend was pregnant when he died on the mountain, his father Runar Gudbjartsson told the Iceland Monitor.
“Five months after he was declared deceased we sort of got him back, (his son is) the spitting image of his father,” he said.
The pair had told friends that if anything happened to them, nobody should risk their lives to recover their remains, according to Runarsson’s son.
“He told me that Kristinn and Thorsteinn had told people that if something happened to them, the mountain could keep them,” said Runar Gudbjartsson. They didn’t want to put people in danger to save them. The mountain would take what it was going to take.”