Mummified American climber found 22 years later in Peru as glaciers retreat

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Peruvian police and mountain rescue workers recovered the body of an American climber who went missing in 2002 as glaciers in Peru's highest mountain and surrounding area continue to retreat.

The mummified, skeletal corpse still had well-preserved climbing boots, crampons and clothing, as well as a driver's license and passport belonging to William Stampfl. Stampfl is suspected to have died in an avalanche more than 20 years ago.

In a statement, police say they recovered his body on July 5 at an altitude of 5,200 meters (17,060.37 ft), well below Huascaran's 6,768-meter summit.

Glacial mass in the region has been retreating for about the last 10 years, said Edson Ramirez, a park ranger and risk assessor for the Huascaran National Park. "What was buried years ago is coming to the surface."

Peru has an estimated 68% of the world's tropical glaciers, which are among the most vulnerable ice packs in a warming planet. A November report by Peru's government shows the country has lost 56% of its tropical glaciers in the last six decades.

Many of those glaciers lie in Peru's Cordillera Blanca, where the Huascaran and other iconic mountains draw thousands of climbers a year.

(Reporting by Alexander Villegas; Editing by Richard Chang)