Soaring temperatures are prompting melting Swiss glaciers to reveal their secrets, with hikers this summer stumbling across two sets of unidentified human remains and plane wreckage lost for more than half a century.
Two French mountaineers found human bones last Wednesday while climbing the Chessjen glacier in the south of the canton of Valais, a police spokesman confirmed on Monday. The skeleton was transported from the glacier by helicopter the same day.
The bones were discovered near an ancient path that fell into disuse about 10 years ago, said Dario Andenmatten, the caretaker of the Britannia mountain refuge from where many mountaineers begin their ascents in the area. The two hikers probably only made their discovery because they were relying on an old map.
Since there was not much left of the body other than bare bones, Andenmatten said he expected the person to have died “in the 1970s or 80s.”
A week earlier, another body was found on the Stockji Glacier near the resort town of Zermatt, northwest of the Matterhorn. In both cases, Valais police said the process of identifying the human remains through DNA analysis was still ongoing and would take “a few more days”.
The Alpine Region Police maintains a list of around 300 missing persons cases since 1925. It includes supermarket chain millionaire Karl-Erivan Haub – a triple German, Russian and American citizen who disappeared in the Zermatt area while training for a ski tour on April 7, 2018. German media have linked the body discovered on the Stockji glacier to Haub, who was legally declared dead in 2021.
However, one of the two hikers who discovered the body told the Blick newspaper that the clothing they found was neon, “80s style”. The corpse was mummified and slightly damaged, “but almost complete,” said Luc Lechanoine, 55.
In the first week of August, a mountain guide discovers the wreckage of a plane that crashed above the Aletsch Glacier, near the peaks of Jungfrau and Mönch, in June 1968.
“From afar, I thought I was looking at two backpacks,” Dominik Nellen, 38, said. Further inspection revealed the objects were pieces of wreckage from a Piper Cherokee plane that crashed in the area on June 30, 1968, carrying a teacher on board. , a chief physician and his son, all from Zurich. The bodies were recovered at the time, but the wreckage was not.
After a winter with relatively little snowfall, the Swiss Alps have already experienced two severe summer heat waves. In July, authorities advised mountaineers against climbing the Matterhorn due to abnormally high temperatures, which almost reached 30°C in Zermatt.
During the July heat wave, the altitude at which the water froze was measured at a record high of 5,184 meters, compared to a normal summer level of 3,000 to 3,500 meters.