Mountaineer tells of relief after 30-year search for friends’ remains

The friends Mr Aisthorpe was looking for.
The friends Mr Aisthorpe was looking for.
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A 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 bodies were finally found.

Steve Aisthorpe, 55, was part of an expedition to Pumori with Kristinn Runarsson and Thorsteinn Gudjonsson, who were last seen alive at a height of 21,650ft on 18 October 1988.

The remains of the two 27-year-old Icelandic climbers were discovered last month by an American mountaineer at the edge of a glacier on the Nepal-Tibet border.

Mr Aisthorpe, a mission development worker for the Church of Scotland, said it is likely the pair fell from the face of the mountain and their remains were slowly carried down by a retreating glacier over the past 30 years.

The bodies were brought back to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, by a group of local climbers and a cremation service was attended by relatives, who then took the men’s ashes home to Iceland.

Mr Aisthorpe, of Kincraig near Aviemore, said: “The discovery of the remains of Thorsteinn and Kristinn after so many years have inevitably brought many emotions to the surface for all who knew and loved these wonderful guys.

“It has also brought people together and I pray will help with greater closure and, in time, peace. I plan to go to Reykjavik in Iceland to meet their families soon and pay my respects.”

Mr Aisthorpe said further clues about what exactly happened to the men could emerge because two camera films were found in a pocket of a jacket and have been sent to a specialist in Australia for development.

During the four-man expedition up the challenging 23,494ft neighbour of Mount Everest, Mr Aisthorpe had begun to suffer from gastric flu and, along with another ill mountaineer, descended to the village of Pheriche to consult a doctor.

He was told that it would take a week for him to recover, so he sent a message back to the camp suggesting that Mr Runarsson and Mr Gudjonsson “should feel free” to make a summit attempt without him. They set off and were never seen again.

“I’ve never felt as alone as the day I arrived back at our high camp,” Mr Aisthorpe said. “As I worked my way upwards, I desperately hoped that Kristinn and Torsteinn had descended safely and were now lying in their sleeping bags in the tiny red tent camp.

“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.

Mr Aisthorpe said a helicopter search was launched five days after the men were last seen.