Remains of German climber recovered in Switzerland 37 years on

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Remains of German climber recovered in Switzerland 37 years on
A shoe and pieces of equipment are seen on the ice of the Theodul glacier near Zermatt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Kantonspolizei Wallis | -

The remains of a German climber who has been missing since 1986 have been recovered on a glacier in the Swiss Alps, the Valais canton police said on Thursday.


Climate change has accelerated the melting of glaciers, with the retreating ice releasing bodies of alpinists it has held for years, often decades.

On July 12th, climbers found human remains and several pieces of equipment on the Theodule glacier, in southern Switzerland.

The remains were transported to a hospital and "DNA comparisons allowed to establish that this was an alpinist who had disappeared in September 1986," the police said in a statement.

Then 38 years old, the man went missing after failing to return from a climb. A search undertaken at the time was unsuccessful.

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Climate change

Alpine glaciers have been severely affected by global warming. 

In Switzerland, glaciers have lost a third of their volume since 2022, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Only four glaciers remain in Germany, and experts predict these could be destined to melt away in the coming years.


Winters with little snow mean that the glaciers no longer grow, while summers that are too warm mean that they are exposed to the sun's rays earlier and earlier without a protective layer of snow.

Glacier melt can create mudslides, rockfalls and dried-up Alpine rivers.


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