Swiss authorities confirmed on July 27 that human remains discovered on the Matterhorn earlier this month belong to a German hiker who disappeared in the Swiss Alps 37 years ago.
On July 12, hikers on the Theodul Glacier in Zermatt, Switzerland, made the grim discovery. Forensic analysis at Valais Hospital enabled experts to identify the hiker through DNA testing and link the remains to a 38-year-old German man who went missing in September 1986, according to the Valais canton police.
In a stark image shared by the police, a lone hiking boot with red laces sticks out of the snow – a tangible reminder of a life cut short in the unforgiving terrain.
The man’s identity and the circumstances surrounding his death remain undisclosed. However, his case is not isolated. Over the past century, hundreds of people have disappeared in the Alps, many of whom are thought to have died during hikes or climbs.
Melting glaciers in Switzerland are responsible for the increased discovery of long-lost remains. Last year, Switzerland’s glaciers lost 6% of their volume, the highest melt rate recorded since measurements began over a century ago. This number nearly doubles the previous record set in 2003.
The tragic finding follows a string of similar incidents where the retreating ice revealed the fates of those lost. In 2015, the remains of two young Japanese climbers who vanished on the Matterhorn during a 1970 snowstorm were found, and their identities were confirmed through DNA testing.