Melting Swiss glacier uncovers climber missing since 1986

The remains of a German alpinist who went missing in 1986 have been found on a glacier in the Swiss Alps, according to a statement issued on Thursday by the Valais cantonal police.

The remains were analysed by the forensic medicine department of the Valais Hospital in Sion and researchers found that they belonged to the 38-year-old German alpinist who went missing while hiking near Zermatt. “A DNA comparison established that the remains were those of the climber who had been missing since September 1986,” said the Valais police.

The man never came back from his hike and searches proved unsuccessful at the time. But 37 years later, his remains have appeared again, together with his hiking boots and crampons.

As a result of global warming, more and more glaciers are retreating in Switzerland and objects, remains, but also people are being discovered.

This is what happened on July 12 on the Théodule glacier, in southern Switzerland, where some climbers discovered human remains and several pieces of equipment.

Some experts believe that more and more bodies and objects will emerge on Swiss glaciers as the huge ice sheets continue to retreat at an accelerating rate.

In 2014 the body of missing British climber Jonathan Conville was discovered by a helicopter pilot who spotted something unusual while delivering supplies to a mountain refuge on the Matterhorn – Switzerland’s most famous peak.

Mr Conville had been missing since 1979. His family, who had spent decades not knowing his fate, described finally being able to be sure that he had died in an environment he loved as “bittersweet”.

A year later, the bodies of two Japanese climbers were discovered at the edge of the Matterhorn glacier. They had gone missing in a snowstorm in 1970.

Last year the melting ice even changed the border between Switzerland and Italy. The frontier had originally been set at the drainage divide – the point that meltwater runs down towards one country or the other.

The shrinking glacier meant the position of the drainage divide shifted. The famous Rifugio Guide del Cervino, an Italian mountain lodge much loved by skiers and hikers, is now technically in Switzerland, and delicate negotiations between the Swiss and Italian governments have been taking place to decide how to redraw the border.