Body of Chino mountain climber buried by avalanche 22 years ago is found in Peru

Body of Chino mountain climber buried by avalanche 22 years ago is found in Peru

Twenty two years ago, an avalanche buried Chino resident and climber Bill Stampfl as he made his way up one of the highest peaks in the Andes mountains.

His family knew there was little hope of finding him alive, or even of retrieving his corpse from the thick fields of snow and the freezing ice sheets that cover the 22,000-foot tall Huascaran peak.

But in June, Stampfl’s son got a call from a stranger, who said he had come across the climber’s frozen, and mostly intact body, as he made his own ascent up Huascaran.

“It was so out of left field. We talk about my dad, we think about him all the time,” Joseph Stampfl said. “You just never think you are going to get that call.”

This photo distributed by the Peruvian National Police shows police carrying a body that they identify as Chino mountain climber William Stampfl, on Huascaran mountain in Huraz, Peru, on Friday, July 5, 2024. Peruvian authorities announced Tuesday, July 9, 2024, that they found the mummified body of Stampfl, who died 22 years ago, along with two other American climbers, after the three were trapped in an avalanche while trying to climb Peru’s highest mountain. (Peruvian National Police via AP)

He then shared the news with his family.

“It’s been a shock” said Jennifer Stampfl, the climber’s daughter who lives in Pomona. “When you get that phone call that he’s been found your heart just sinks. You don’t know how exactly to feel at first.”

“He really loved Chino,” the climber’s daughter, Jennifer Stampfl, said Wednesday.

She recalled a little coffee shop where East End Avenue ends that her dad loved to visit daily, Jennifer Stampfl said.

Bill Stampfl and his daughter Jennifer Stampfl are seen in a family photo. The Chino resident’s remains were found in June in Peru, 22 years after he went climbing in the Andes mountains. (Courtesy of Jennifer Stampfl)

From left, Janet Stampfl-Raymer, Bill Stampfl and his daughter Jennifer Stampfl are seen in a family photo. (Courtesy of Jennifer Stampfl)

Bill Stampfl, seen in a family photo, loved mountain climbing. The Chino resident’s body was found in June in Peru, 22 years after he went climbing in the Andes mountains. (Courtesy of Jennifer Stampfl)

Chino resident Bill Stampfl, seen in a family photo, loved mountain climbing. (Courtesy of Jennifer Stampfl)

Chino resident Bill Stampfl, seen in a family photo, loved mountain climbing. His remains were found in June in Peru, 22 years after he went climbing in the Andes mountains. (Courtesy of Jennifer Stampfl)

Janet Stampfl-Raymer, left, is seen with Chino resident Bill Stampfl, in a family photo. (Courtesy of Jennifer Stampfl)

Bill Stampfl, seen in a family photo, loved mountain climbing. The Chino resident’s remains were found in June in Peru, 22 years after he went climbing in the Andes mountains. (Courtesy of Jennifer Stampfl)

Bill Stampfl and his daughter Jennifer Stampfl are seen in a family photo. The Chino resident’s remains were found in June in Peru, 22 years after he went climbing in the Andes mountains. (Courtesy of Jennifer Stampfl)

Chino resident Bill Stampfl, seen in a family photo, loved mountain climbing. His remains were found in June in Peru, 22 years after he went climbing in the Andes mountains. (Courtesy of Jennifer Stampfl)

Bill Stampfl, seen in a family photo, loved mountain climbing. The Chino resident’s remains were found in June in Peru, 22 years after he went climbing in the Andes mountains. (Courtesy of Jennifer Stampfl)

Chino resident Bill Stampfl, seen in a family photo, loved mountain climbing. (Courtesy of Jennifer Stampfl)

Chino resident Bill Stampfl, seen in a family photo, loved mountain climbing. (Courtesy of Jennifer Stampfl)

Chino resident Bill Stampfl, center, is seen doing what he loved — mountain climbing. His body was found in June in Peru, 22 years after he went climbing in the Andes mountains. (Courtesy of Jennifer Stampfl)

Chino resident Bill Stampfl, seen in a family photo, loved mountain climbing. His body was found in June in Peru, 22, years after he went climbing in the Andes mountains. (Courtesy of Jennifer Stampfl)

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Her father, a civil engineer, had a big property that he subdivided, she said.

“He made a dead-end street in Chino, off of East End, and he named it after me,” she added. “It’s Jenny Lane.”

Janet Stampfl-Raymer, who was Stampfl’s wife and now lives in the Midwest, said he was definitely a California guy.

The family held a memorial service at Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, which was very small 22 years ago, Stampfl-Raymer said. It has grown in recent years, and now has nearly 61,000 followers on Instagram.

Stampfl was a self-employed civil engineer, but mountaineering was his passion — and one he practiced for around the house.

“He used to take bags of cat litter and stick it in a backpack, and he’d go up and down a flight of stairs many, many times during the week,” she said. “About 15- or 20-minute workouts with 60 pounds on his back in a backpack to train to go up the mountain.”

On Friday, July 5 police in Peru recovered Stampfl’s body from the mountain where he was buried by the avalanche in 2002, when the 58-year-old was climbing with two friends who were also killed.

A group of policemen and mountain guides put Stampfl’s body on a stretcher, covered it in an orange tarp, and slowly took it down the icy mountain. The body was found at an altitude of 17,060 feet, about a nine-hour hike from one of the camps where climbers stop when they tackle Huascaran’s steep summit.

Jennifer Stampfl said the family plans to move the body to a funeral home in Peru’s capital, Lima, where it can be cremated and his ashes repatriated.

“For 22 years, we just kind of put in our mind: ’This is the way it is. Dad’s part of the mountain, and he’s never coming home,’” she said.

Police said Stampfl’s body and clothing were preserved by the ice and freezing temperatures. His driver’s license was found inside a hip pouch. It says he was a Chino resident.

“Getting news like that is very, very surreal,” Stampfl-Raymer said. “We’ve been waiting 22 years, I did not ever think that his body would be discovered… I had resigned myself to that he was on the mountain and I knew where he was. I had to come to peace with that, but it was very hard to not have any indication.”

“I don’t know what else to tell you, except that it is an answer to a prayer,” added Stampfl-Raymer. “When Bill stood at the top of a mountain, he used to tell me that that was when he felt closest to God.”

He moved to the San Bernardino County city in 1960, brother Herb Stampfl said Wednesday, July 10.

Herb, who’s just 14 months older than his brother, said their family moved from Austria to New York in 1950. Bill Stamphl was 6 at the time.

He graduated from Chino High School, graduated from Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, and then graduated from UCLA with a degree in civil engineering, Herb Stamphl said.

The effort to retrieve Stampfl’s remains began last week, after an American climber came upon the frozen body while making his way to the Huascaran summit. The climber opened the pouch and read the name on the driver’s license. He called Stampfl’s relatives, who then got in touch with local mountain guides.

“It was a long time ago,” said Herb Stampfl, who now lives in Rancho Cucamonga. “I never thought they would discover his body… it’s a relief to know we’re able to bring him home.”

There was some other mountaineers above them that saw the avalanche and indicated they were swept into a crevasse, Herb Stampfl added.

Joseph Stampfl said they worked with a Peruvian mountain rescue association to retrieve his father’s body, which was about 3,000 to 4,000 feet below where he and his two friends were believed to have been killed.

“He was no longer encased in ice,” the son said. “He still has got his boots on.”

A team of 13 mountaineers participated in the recovery operation — five officers from an elite police unit and eight mountain guides who work for Grupo Alpamayo, a local tour operator that takes climbers to Huascaran and other peaks in the Andes.

Eric Raul Albino, director of Grupo Alpamayo, said he was hired by Stampfl’s family to retrieve the body.

Lenin Alvardo, one of the police officers who participated in the recovery operation, said Stampfl’s clothes were still mostly intact. The hip pouch with his driving license also contained a pair of sunglasses, a camera, a voice recorder and two decomposing $20 bills. A gold wedding ring was still on the left hand.

“Inside his ring, it’s written ‘Loving Christ,’” Stampfl-Raymer said. “And when I saw his ring on his finger, I said ‘Thank you.’ It is an answer to prayer.”

“I’ve never seen anything like that” Alvarado said.

Huascaran is Peru’s highest peak. Hundreds of climbers visit the mountain each year with local guides, and it typically takes them about a week to reach the summit.

However, climate change has affected Huascaran and the surrounding peaks higher than 5,000 meters, known as the Cordillera Blanca. According to official figures, the Cordillera Blanca has lost 27% of its ice sheet over the past five decades.

Stampfl was with friends Matthew Richardson and Steve Erskine in trying to climb Huascaran in 2002. They had travelled the world to climb challenging mountains and had reached the peaks of Kilimanjaro, Rainier, Shasta and Denali, according to a Los Angeles Times report at the time.

Erskine’s body was found shortly after the avalanche, but Richardson’s corpse is still missing.

“I think we’re still kind of processing it,” Jennifer Stampfl said. “I am so relieved to be having him home. I just want him here, I want him in California. This is his home, this is where I want him.”

Jennifer Stampfl said a plaque in memory of the three friends was placed at the summit of Mount Baldy, where the trio trained for their expeditions. She said they may return to the site with her father’s remains.

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Janet Stampfl-Raymer said that, when her husband wasn’t working, he loved to being in the mountains.

“He was a kind man. He was humble. He loved God, and he loved the mountains,” she said.

“We all just dearly loved my husband. He was one of a kind,” she said. “We’re very grateful we can bring his body home to rest.”

Stampfl carefully planned his mountaineering expeditions, his daughter said. She also said he was very humble and did not like to draw attention to himself.

“The fact that he is in the news, it is so not my dad,” she said.