A mummified woman found on mountain is thought to be a climber missing for over 40 years.
Marta Emilia Altamirano, better known as Patty, died during an expedition in the Andes in March 1981.
She was then aged 20 and slipped on ice at an altitude of around 5,000 meters.
Marta is believed to have fallen hundreds of meters to her death, according to the sister who accompanied her.
At least four expeditions have taken place over the years to find the young woman’s body, however without any success.
Over the years, the search was dropped and her disappearance became a legend in the mountain village of Barreal in Argentina’s San Juan province.
Part of the story includes Patty’s father, a retired police officer who searched for her body for many years until eventually passing away in the town where she stayed for the last time.
But on 28 January a body was found on the Cerro Mercedario, the highest peak of the Cordillera de la Ramada range and the eighth-highest mountain in the Andes.
It was discovered at an altitude of around 5,000 meters and was first presumed to be a German mountaineer called Andreas Colli who disappeared in the area in 2002.
But it was soon confirmed the mummified remains belonged to a woman aged between 18 and 30 years.
The climber’s body was found attached to a glacier and the authorities had to break the ice to extract it.
According to a news report of the time, Patty embarked on the fateful expedition with her sister Corina and experienced climber Sergio Bossini on 23 March 1981 from Barreal.
A guide accompanied the group part of the way before they continued alone.
On the evening of March 24 that year, the trio set up base at the foot of a glacier at an altitude of 4,300 meters.
They then embarked on their ascent to the summit three days later and stopped to set up camp on the ice at an altitude of over 5,000 meters at around 7pm.
According to the report, Patty went off to survey the surrounding area alone and lost her footing, sliding hundreds of metres down an icy slope.
Corina and Sergio searched for her throughout the night, but to no avail.
They managed to find her the following morning, but Patty had already passed away.
Because of the weather conditions and difficult terrain, the pair decided they would not be able to bring her body back with them so they left to ask for help.
Corina and Sergio arrived at the nearest gendarmerie post on 29 March 1981 to report the tragedy.
However, snow and ice had buried Patty’s body in the time it took the authorities to assemble a search team and they were unable to find her.
Another search operation was organized the following year, but again with no luck.
In the subsequent years, at least two other search operations were carried out to find Patty’s remains.
Doctor Jorge Prieto, who took part in the second search operation, said after the mummified body was found last week: “There is no doubt that it is her. I am absolutely sure.
“There is no other missing person, much less a woman. Everything matches.”
Orlando Bravo, a family friend and experienced climber who also took part in the search operations in the early 80s, said: “I’ve spoken with Patty’s brother and they are considering coming to San Juan.
“I’m concerned about the emotional state of all of them. We are all very surprised.”
He added: “This is all very strong for the family. We have to wait for them to identify the body. But it is also about closing a chapter. Over 41 years have passed.”
The results of forensic tests on the mummified body have yet to be announced.