The intense search for three missing Argentine climbers came to a tragic end on Monday when Chilean authorities announced that their bodies had been found on Cerro Marmolejo in the Andes Mountains. A multidisciplinary team was deployed to the remote, high-altitude area after the climbers failed to return from their expedition as planned on November 29th.
“Currently, all the works for the extraction are being carried out,” the Carabineros de Chile stated on social media after the Special Police Operations Group (GOPE) located the bodies.
The discovery followed an aerial sighting of the climbers earlier that day. According to Chilean media, a pilot from the Rotortec company claimed to have spotted the mountaineers while flying over the mountain.
“None of them signaled the helicopter,” pilot Francisco Fluxá noted grimly, explaining that temperatures were 15 degrees below zero Celsius in that part of the range when the climbers were seen.
Search Efforts Hampered by Harsh Terrain
The deputy consul general of Argentina in Santiago de Chile emphasized that only certain helicopters can reach such high altitudes and maneuver in the adverse weather conditions common in the area.
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He praised the efforts of the GOPE mountaineering experts to locate the climbers despite near whiteout conditions, strong winds, and avalanche risks on the over 6,000-meter peak.
The missing men were ultimately found separated by about 50 meters along the marked Marmolejo trail, according to initial sighting reports. Their health status remained unknown prior to authorities reaching them on-site but hopes for their survival were low given the extreme exposure.
The deceased climbers were identified as Raúl Espir, mayor of the Argentine town San Martín, and notary Sergio Berardo, both from La Pampa province. Accompanying them was experienced Mendoza guide, Ignacio Lucero. The group last made contact when traversing the mountain’s western slope on November 28th.
Search efforts began when Chilean police were notified the expedition failed to return as scheduled the next day. A tent and campsite used by the climbers were located at over 4,000 meters altitude, but no further traces could be found until Monday’s aerial sighting and recovery mission.