May 30, 2016 / 1:35 PM / 3 years ago

Bodies of U.S. climbers left on Tibetan peak out of respect

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - The bodies of two renowned U.S. climbers, found in Tibet 16 years after they died on one of the world’s tallest mountains, have been left untouched out of respect, one of the mountaineers who found the remains said on Monday.

Ueli Steck, a mountaineer from Switzerland, speaks to the media during an interview at a hotel in Kathmandu, Nepal May 30, 2016. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

Alex Lowe and David Bridges were swept away in 1999 by an avalanche during their attempt to scale the world’s 14th highest peak, Shishapangma.

Ueli Steck of Switzerland and David Goettler of Germany, who were attempting the same South Face route to the 26,291-foot (8,013 m) peak, stumbled upon the bodies of the pair, encased in ice, at an altitude of 19,356 feet (5,900 m).

“The bodies were two meters (six feet) apart,” Steck told Reuters after returning to the Nepali capital of Kathmandu from neighboring Tibet.

A charity run by Lowe’s widow, Jenni Lowe-Anker, announced the find on May 2.

Steck and Goettler, who had heard about the disappearance of the legendary climbers on the same route 16 years ago, descended to their advanced base camp, set up at 18,700 feet (5,700 m).

Goettler called Conrad Anker, who was part of the 1999 expedition and survived the avalanche, describing their findings.

“We did not know them and we could not recognize them,” Steck said, outside his hotel in Kathmandu.

Based on the description, Anker had little doubt of the identities of the two bodies, as their clothing, boots and backpacks matched the gear Lowe and Bridges had when they disappeared.

“We did not touch them out of respect and left the bodies on the mountain in the same position as we had discovered (them),” said the 40-year-old mountaineer from Interlaken, Switzerland.

Bodies of climbers who perish in the Himalayas remain buried under the snow and emerge as the ice melts or glaciers move.

Lowe, who was 40 at the time of his death, was regarded as the best American mountaineer of his generation when he and Bridges were swept away during an expedition that aimed to ski down Shishapangma.

Lowe’s accomplishments included two climbs to the top of Mount Everest, the world’s highest peak, several first ascents in Antarctica and dozens of less prominent but highly technical ascents.

Steck and Goettler made two attempts to reach the summit of Shishapangma this month, but failed because of bad weather.

Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Clarence Fernandez

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