KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — A Swiss climber who found the long-lost bodies of a renowned mountaineer and his cameraman on one of the world's tallest mountains said it took days for him and his climbing partner to realize whom they had found.
Mountaineer Ueli Steck said he and David Goettler were attempting to climb China's Mount Shishapangma and saw the bodies on a glacier at a height of 5,900 meters (19,350 feet).
It was only when they got back to base camp after their failed attempt that they thought the bodies may have been of Alex Lowe and David Bridges, who were swept away by an avalanche in 1999 and had been attempting to climb the world's 14 highest mountains.
Lowe was regarded as the world's greatest mountain climber when he was swept to his death at age 40. Bridges, then 29, was an accomplished high-altitude climber and cinematographer.
"We didn't realize this could be Alex and David. But when we were back in base camp we were talking about this and were like — oh these two bodies could be," Steck said Monday in Kathmandu after returning from the mountain.
Steck said Goettler then called Cornad Anker, who was climbing with Lowe and Bridges at the time of avalanche, and gave him a description of the clothes, shoes and backpack on the bodies.
"Conrad made the conclusion that it was the two friends of his," Steck said.
Steck said he did not touch or move the bodies, which were found on the mountain's difficult "British route," which is not very popular. Steck and Goettler were the only climbers this season on the southern face of the 8,027-meter (26,330-foot) mountain.
Steck climbed the peak in 2011 but on a route slightly to the right and did not see the bodies then.
Lowe was known as "Lungs With Legs" for his incredible strength and stamina. He climbed Mount Everest twice, and is credited with rescuing several climbers in Alaska in 1995, a year when six climbers died on Mount McKinley.