A corpse discovered frozen inside a glacier in Argentina at a height of 5,000 metres may provide the end to a four-decade-old mystery.
Speculation circulated this week that authorities in San Juan Province believe it could be the body of a missing mountain climber from Tucumán who disappeared in 1981.
The grim discovery took place on January 24, at Cerro Mercedario, the highest peak of the Cordillera de la Ramada mountain range in Calingasta, San Province. A group of people who were trekking in the area stumbled across the corpse and alerted the authorities.
After heeding the warning, local police and Border Guard (National Gendarmerie) officers decided to break through the ice and remove the corpse, working closely with the Public Prosecutor's Office, Criminalistics and the Geras Group. Images published by the local Diario Huarpe website shows that the rescue was carried out by helicopter.
According to reports, the body was clothed in the remains of a climbing gear. Investigators are working under the theory that the body is that of María Emilia Altamirano, a woman who visited the area during an expedition in 1981, disappeared and was never heard from again.
The discovery was initially linked to the 2022 disappearance of the German citizen Andreas Colli, although the hypothesis was discarded when forensic studies showed that the corpse corresponds to a woman aged between 18 and 30 years old.
The autopsy determined that she died from multiple injuries and that the body had lost one foot. Experts believe that she may have died while trying to ascend one of the most difficult slopes of the mountain.
Who was the mountain climber from Tucumán?
María Emilia Altamirano, also known as "Patty," was just 20 years old when she decided to set out on a hike with her sister, Corina, and her boyfriend, Sergio Bossini.
In 1981, the three set off from Barreal and stopped at Hornadillas before continuing on the following day and making camp at the foot of a 4,300-metre-high glacie.
The trio began the ascent on Friday, March 27 and at night they decided to rest. It was then that Altamirano decided to walk around the surrounding area. However, "she didn't get a footing and slipped hundreds of metres down."
Both her sister and her boyfriend went down to look for her, but they were unsuccessful due to the darkness. When they managed to find her the next morning, she was already dead.
Because of the weather and the terrain, the couple had to leave body there and go in search of help, but by the time they managed to approach a Boarder Guard post on March 29 and told them what had happened, it was too late. The force sent a team of professionals, but the body had already been buried by the snow.
Since then, the woman's body has remained missing. Members of her familyare currently awaiting the DNA results of the remains found to see if they can have some closure to the terrible tragedy that happened more than 40 years ago.