Scottish climber’s ‘relief’ at end to 30-year mystery

A climber has told of his relief that the bodies of two of his friends have been found 30 years after they vanished in the Himalayas.

Steve Aisthorpe, of Kincraig, near Aviemore, was part of an expedition on the Nepal-Tibet border with Kristinn Rúnarsson and Thorsteinn Gudjonsson.

The men were last seen alive on 18 October 1988, and their bodies were found last month.

Mr Aisthorpe said he hoped it would bring some peace to the men’s families.

The bodies were found by an American mountaineer at the snout of a glacier below a climbing route on the 7,161m (23,494ft) mountain, Pumori.

For three decades, it had not been known what fate the men had suffered.

Mr Rúnarsson and Mr Gudjonsson had struck out for the summit when Mr Aisthorpe was forced to leave the expedition after falling ill.

Once he was well enough following treatment by a village doctor, Mr Aisthorpe first returned to the expedition’s base camp where he was told by a sherpa he had observed the men’s ascent until they disappeared behind an ice cliff.

Mr Aisthorpe then walked to a high camp where he found his friends’ lone, red tent on a glacier.

He said: “I remember being up on the surface of the glacier and shouting their names.

“At that point I expected that they were in their tent.”

But the tent was empty.

“My heart just sank,” said Mr Aisthorpe. “I had this terrible alone feeling.”

‘I pray’

Mr Aisthorpe, a 55-year-old mission development worker for the Church of Scotland, spent weeks searching for his friends, who he had first met in 1987.

Following the discovery of their bodies, he said it was believed the two Icelanders fell into a crevasse on their possible return from the summit, and their remains were carried down from the mountain by the glacier.

Following a cremation service in Kathmandu, the men’s ashes were taken home by their relatives.

He 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.

“But it has also brought people together and I pray will help with greater closure and, in time, peace.”

Mr Aisthorpe said his faith helped him through difficult days of searching for his friends, and later having to leave the Himalayas without having found them.

“I plan to go to Reykjavík in Iceland to meet their families soon and pay my respects,” he said.