40-year mystery of missing mountaineer solved

A few weeks ago, the Wānaka Sun published a story on the discovery of a body on Mt Aspiring on 19 March 2021 which was believed to be that of Australian mountaineer Terry Jordan. Jordan disappeared over 40 years ago.

This was not the case- these remains have yet to be identified.

However, the mystery of Jordan’s disappearance has been solved. In 2016, human remains, items of clothing, and property were found on the lower reaches of the Bonar Glacier, one of Mt Aspiring’s two major glacial systems.

The cause of death wasn’t clear but there was significant trauma consistent with a fall.

Police work and the efforts of Gaye Robinson, of the Coroner’s Office, determined that the remains were Jordan’s although it took five years to unravel this mystery.

Jordan was last seen in December 1978. The 30-year-old librarian from Canberra left Wānaka with friend Marc Weinstein, to climb Mt Aspiring, planning to return in 10 days. They left French Ridge Hut on December 10, in poor weather

When they failed to return on December 15, a search was initiated and Weinstein’s body was found two days later.

However, despite an extensive search, Jordan’s body was never found.

It was thought he had fallen into a crevasse or been covered in avalanche debris.

When the remains of a body were discovered on the Bonar Glacier five years ago, attempts to identify them came up empty.

They would have stayed that way if not for the efforts of Robinson and Canterbury Police emergency management coordinator Sergeant Phil Simmonds.

Simmonds has an extensive background in mountain search and rescue and disaster victim identification having worked in the field for 25 years.

There were no DNA, dental records, or fingerprints because of the time that had passed and the conditions on the mountain, but Simmonds reviewed all the paperwork, files, and recovered property.

He ruled out another missing tramper because of their estimated height and discrepancies between the missing tramper's watch and the watch found with the unidentified remains.

He then ascertained who was in the area at the time.

An Australian mountaineer identified Jordan as a climber who had never been recovered and contact was made with Jordan’s family. They determined that the watch was likely to have been his.

A pair of glasses was found among the items, but Simmonds discovered they did not match Jordan’s. When he checked the property report relating to Weinstein, who also wore glasses, he discovered no glasses were found with his body. A photo confirmed the likelihood the glasses found with Jordan were Weinstein’s.

Simmonds then conducted a “glacial flow” (which involves analyzing glacial ice creep, large-scale folding, and faulting) which confirmed the remains were Jordan’s.

Coroner Marcus Elliot reviewed the results of the investigation and his coronial findings came to the same conclusion.

Jordan’s remains were cremated. Some of the ashes will be returned to Australia, with the rest scattered on the Bonar Glacier.

In the meantime, the identity of the remains found on March 19 this year, very close to Jordan’s, remains a mystery.

Read edition 1023 of the Wānaka Sun here.

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