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Patty's 'return': the story of the body that the mountain returned 40 years later


In two stages, Corina Altamirano manages to narrate what happened with her sister on Cerro Mercedario. She saw her fall in 1981. And she recognized her this Friday in front of the forensics in San Juan.

The same mountain that in March 1981 embraced her and took her away, returned her 40 years later.

Like a message matured in decades, like a divine sign, that all-powerful dream, that natural mechanism of stones, ice and abysses, decided that Patty, the intrepid one,

had to "return"

to say goodbye to her four brothers, her mother and of his father, who are still living.

Patty's brothers in San Juan before recognizing the body.

This story, then, happens in two times.

This present of mixed emotions and that past that also seemed buried, but now it is recreated once more.

It's 9 at night.

Corina Altamirano has been traveling with two of her brothers from Tucuman.

They are driving through La Rioja towards San Juan, when she receives this call.

She sees a bluff.

She walks in the dark towards the little light that flashes.

Her instinct tells her that under that aura, the only beam in the middle of an unlimited immensity, the signal may not be lost.

Before the cell phone rang, the music was low and the road conversation revolved around the same thing: he says that they feel as if everything is back, as if Marta


Altamirano had left yesterday.

Corina had built her consolations.

She decided to think that her sister had stayed forever where she wanted to be, in the bowels of Cerro Mercedario, a colossus of rock and glaciers,

6,700 meters above sea level,

in the San Juan Andes.

She again imagined that a flock of birds had rescued her limp body from the ice crevasse where she last saw it and had departed with Patty toward the horizon on a flight of eternity.

That's why everything gets mixed up.

Feelings are confused.

Is it pain?

Is it wellness?

Is it perhaps the certainty that something blessed has happened?

They are traveling to recognize that body that returns, after being found by mountaineers of this time.

Climate change presumably caused the ice to recede and a corpse surfaced.

They travel, pacified by life, to confirm to the San Juan forensics that indeed those brightly colored clothes, now faded by the erosion of the land, are Patty's clothes.

How could Corina, at 63, forget that tragic second, the silent commotion at the base of the ice wall, on a steep and difficult slope, inclined at 45 degrees.

She opened and closed her eyes and Patty, who had decided to let go of the rope and move ten meters to the place where they planned to sleep, was gone.

Corina Altamirano spoke with Clarín.

You can clearly see that moment, just as it happened

in the most colossal heights of the planet.

“It was the two of us and a fellow Italian mountaineer.

I was 21, my sister was 20 and Sergio Bossini was 40 years old.

We were climbing all the mountains in the north, for sport, for the pleasure of climbing and reaching the summit.

We were members of the Club Andino Tucumán.

We were always dating.

That year the Mercedario was very difficult because it had been a year like this, with very little rain and snowfall, ”she recalls.

On March 27 there was no snow and the mountain range looked bare.

Corina talks about an accident, without resorting to metaphors.

That day the wall was literally a trap.

Without snow, there were stones, the typical clay of San Juan soils, and loose pieces of ice not attached to the ground.

crystal ice blobs

, difficult to step on with crampons.

“They don't dig in and you have to ensure your footing.

But despite all that, we were progressing well.

The three of us were well trained and very capable of climbing.

It is a wall whose angle is changing.

We were strung out.

When we had already made two thirds of the wall, we decided to go to the left, towards a crack that looked suitable for sleeping at night.

It was approximately six in the afternoon and we decided to make the crossing horizontally to sleep in that crack”.

Martha 'Patty' Altamirano.

A total climber.

At that moment,

Marta, who was brave,

capable and very physically prepared, decided to unrope to advance to that place where there was a rock balcony and a crack.

“It is as if there was the edge of stone where we were going and on the other side the ice.

She went towards the glacier and at that moment in a second we heard a fleeting sound.

She was ahead of us with her backpack on and suddenly we didn't see the backpack anymore”.

Eternal Patty.


In love with the high peaks.

Patty fell on the other side of the wall.

Corina and Sergio

could not see

Patricia's body from the point where they were.

Without discussion, they began to descend.

Corina spoke to herself, to the rhythm imposed by her pulse and her breathing.

She told herself that they would reach her body and that her sister would be alive.

As a defense mechanism, she repeated in a dialogue with herself: my sister is down, surely hurt, but she is strong.

She has food in her backpack.

She is trained to survive.

She didn't want to assume that the hit had most likely been fatal.

It took them nine hours to get from where they were to the base of the wall.

They arrived at the base at 6 in the morning.

It was a slow and careful descent.

They said to themselves: we have to save ourselves.

“The hope of finding her was intact.

Every time we would stop to put a nail in the ice and belay on the descent, I would yell, wait Patty, wait we're coming.

It was a survival mechanism.

We needed to believe that she was alive.

We reached the bottom and from there we could see the body at the bottom of the wall.

It fell down a soapy track the entire length of the wall, then flew a few feet and landed on flat ground.


She had lost her backpack and we only found a little cup.

We look at each other with my partner.

We loaded the backpack and went down the ravine to the base camp.

We had two days until we reached the Gendarmerie by the riverbed”.

During those two days it snowed non-stop


That snow covered Patty's body between four and five meters.

No matter how much they wanted, the rescuers

could never have reached the place where she was.

In December of that year, Corina and another team of experts returned to the mountain in search of the body.

A large crack had opened in the place where the body was.

They suppose that the body was swallowed by that fissure and that later the snow closed the ravine and covered, once again, everything.

“We believe that the movements of the ice have moved the body from one side to another.

There is a saying that glaciers always return corpses.

But we think that the mountain embraced her and she had it as long as she wanted.

She loved the mountain so much that the mountain was her lover, she embraced her and she allowed herself to be loved by her”.

The imposing Cerro Mercedario in San Juan.

From 6700 meters above sea level.

Corina found a notebook.

There she herself had written a letter to Patty, The letter says:

“You always said, dear sister, that if you died on the mountain we would leave you where you died.

And it was like that."

That is why, now, she returns to this idea of ​​mixed emotions.

Corina and Marta's mother is 88 years old.

Her father 91. I told Corina that everything is, to say the least, strange.

Due to the very beauty of the story, due to the miracle it supposes, it is still something bright and happy.

But the mountain was her place and that was the place where Marta had to be.

"Wow," she said to the man in a low voice, "why would they have found her...".

Anyway, in Corina's words there is a calm of accomplished success.

“It is stirring to return, to return again, that time returns, that it brings the past to the present”, reflects Corina, dazzled by the moment.

She and her brothers had learned what time teaches: that memories and absences, sooner or later, stop hurting


A day later, Corina and her siblings are no longer on any route, but in front of the forensics in an ascetic place far from nature.

They know exactly what they are going to say.

They don't hesitate.

It's February 3.

One day before Patty's birthday, which she would have to turn 64 this Saturday.

So they see her.

They see her and say:

“It's her.

She can now rest in peace."

look also

They confirm that the frozen corpse found on a hill in San Juan belongs to Marta "Patty" Altamirano, who has been missing since 1981

They will fulfill the last wish of "Patty" Altamirano, the climber whose body was found frozen on the mountain 42 years later

Source: clarin

All life articles on 2023-02-04

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