Melting Glaciers in the Swiss Alps Reveal the Body of a Climber That Has Been Missing for 37 Years

By: Past Chronicles Staff Last updated: Oct 13, 2023

A group of climbers recently made a disturbing discovery while trekking across the Matterhorn mountain in southern Switzerland on July 12.

Human remains, along with a lone hiking boot and various pieces of equipment were recovered and immediately sent to a lab for testing. After being lost for nearly four decades, forensic analysis determined that the remains belonged to a German climber who went missing in 1986.

What Else Do We Know About the Climber Who Went Missing in 1986?

Though the victim has not yet been publicly named, there are a few things that we do know about the missing climber. He was a German alpinist who was 38 years old when he vanished while on a climbing excursion in September of 1986.

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A massive search and rescue mission was conducted in hopes of finding him, but the efforts were unsuccessful. Nobody ever knew for certain what happened – until now.

Climate Change Is What’s Causing the Glaciers to Thaw Out

Last year, Switzerland yielded its worst melt rate in history, with glaciers losing more than 6% of their volume. Concern has since grown stronger since Switzerland has experienced record-breaking levels of heat and dryness this past June.

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Glaciers in the Swiss Alps have already lost more than half of their overall volume since 1931, and they continue to recede at a faster pace than in previously recorded years.

More Bodies Are Being Discovered Than Ever Before

Glaciers have been melting at a rapid rate due to climate change, and that has led to the discovery of more bodies. Adventurers who once disappeared without a trace are finally being located. 

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Source: Jonathan Nackstrand/Getty Images

In 2014, the body of a British climber was found on the Matterhorn over 35 years after going missing. In 2015, the remains of two Japanese climbers who went missing in 1970 also turned up on the Matterhorn. 

Bodies Are Being Uncovered in Freezing Climates All Over the World

While Switzerland has recovered the most bodies due to melting glaciers, it isn’t the only country being significantly affected by climate change.

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The remains of hikers who went missing in the 1980s or 1990s were found on a melting glacier on Italy’s Mont Blanc in 2017. In 2016, the bodies of a mountain climber and his cameraman were removed from a partially melted glacier after vanishing in 1999 while ascending Shishapangma in Tibet.