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Peru searches high peak for 2 missing Italians

June 2, 2014

HUARAZ, Peru (AP) — Mountain rescuers searched a glacier hugging one of Peru’s highest peaks Monday for two Italian climbers who disappeared three days earlier at its summit.

Mateo Tagliabue, 27, and Enrico Broggi, 29, were last seen on or near the top of the 5,947-meter (19,625-foot) Alpamayo mountain in the Cordillera Blanca range, said Edson Ramirez, mountain rescue coordinator for Huastaran National Park.

“The search is on the east side of the mountain. They came up on the west side and were apparently on the summit,” Ramirez said. “Their two climbing partners were behind them” and did not see what happened to them, he said.

Ramirez said a search team left for the peak early Sunday and have looking for the missing men on what is “an enormous glacier.” A police helicopter arrived from Lima on Sunday but was hampered by high winds, but hoped to make an overflight Monday, he said.

The owner of Cafe Andino in the nearby regional capital of Huaraz, outfitter Christopher Benway, said he had been on Alpamayo’s summit. “It’s a razor edge,” he said. “You can literally sit with one leg on each side. It would be pretty easy to fall off.”

Peru’s highest peaks are in the Cordillera Blanca, a popular destination for climbers where the snow-capped mountains claim an average of five lives annually.

Last year, three Peruvians, three Argentines and a Czech died and an Englishman disappeared while climbing, Ramirez said. The previous year had two deaths, of U.S. citizens.

The disappearance of the two Italians was the range’s first accident in this year’s climbing season, which runs through September.

Ramirez said he agrees with experts who think global warming has made climbing the range more dangers because higher temperatures have made ice and snow at high altitudes less stable.

“On Alpamayo, the cornices are weaker,” he said, adding that climbers need to reach summits early in the morning and leave after just a few hours of sunlight. He said the two Italians went missing around midday.

Peru is home to the world’s largest mass of tropical glaciers.

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